There is a scene in Sanju where just before signing Munnabhai MBBS, Ranbir Kapoor the actor who plays Dutt says that the reason he’s out of work is because the best scripts in B-Town go to Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. This is one of the many honest admissions that Rajkumar Hirani’s semi-biopic on Sanjay Dutt embodies. Let’s find out if the film does justice to putting forth a fair and accurate narrative on the actor’s life or does it glorify him and make him into a messiah.
What’s it about
There is a lot that is common between Sanjay Dutt and Ranbir Kapoor. Like Sanju, RK too is a recluse and not the media’s favourite blue eyed boy. He too, like Dutt, has had his fair share of public breakups and columns written on how his career is at the risk of going down a rabbit hole after a series of flops. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that RK agreed to play Dutt in this biopic. The film begins in Mumbai at Sanju’s house with Maanayata (Dia Mirza) championing for him to have a renowned biography expert (Anushka Sharma) turn his life into a book. Narrated by Sanju, the film’s first half is a flash back to the beginning of his journey as an actor with Rocky and the drug abuse and rehab that dominated those years. Sanju is a series of interesting stories and anecdotes strung together by a solid thread. It’s like watching moments from an enigmatic actor’s life come alive on the big screen. Vicky Kaushal plays Kamli – Sanju’s best friend who has a very important role to play in his life. The second half focuses on the strained relationship with his father and his court cases and subsequent arrest for possessing arms and weapons. Even thought the context is heavy there is ample entertainment in the film.
Sanju was a huge risk for Ranbir and it pays off beautifully for the versatile actor. He doesn’t make a caricature out of Dutt and instead gives him the right dose of empathy and mystery he embodies. Ranbir becomes Sanju and that’s the strongest point of the film. His scenes with Paresh Rawal who plays Sunil Dutt are outstanding. Not just the body language and his movement, but Ranbir also does full justice to the mindset of the actor – his quirks, etc. The supporting cast of Sanju is unbelievably good, especially Vicky Kaushal who brings down the house with his Kamli act. Manisha Koirala lights up the screen with her smile and sheer presence as Nargis Dutt. Jim Sarbh plays the drug supplier who masquerades as a friend and well wisher. Sonam Kapoor stands out in her angry breakdown scene as Sanju’s Parsi girlfriend Ruby whom he loses to his love for drugs. Her cameo act in the film adds the right dose of drama her character requires. The way Sanju has been edited and shot also deserves a special nod. There is that undeniable Hirani stamp all over the film. More than being just a biopic, Sanju is a father-son relationship story and there’s no denying the fact that you will well up with tears during the iconic Munnabhai jhappi scene between Sanjay and Sunil Dutt. ALSO READ: Sanju movie review: Fatima Sana Shaikh, Subhash Ghai and others are blown away with Ranbir Kapoor’s brilliant performance
Given how much of information about Sanju’s personal life is already public, the film suffers from an identity crisis in the second half. Is it a biopic made to entertain the audience or is it an attempt to give Dutt an image makeover and paint him as a hero? Unfortunately, the second half and the climax end up doing the latter. There are definitely loads of entertaining moments in Sanju, but the media bashing, constant criticism of the way newspapers covered the TADA case and that unnecessary end credit song where Dutt makes a cameo appearance with Ranbir, make matters worse. Hirani has used the court sentencing and the TADA chapter to create an emotional connect with the audience, but in the process it feels like the narrative only serves one purpose – enhance Dutt’s image and play him up to be a victim of media’s witch-hunt. Also a lot of portions are missing – his marriage to Maanayata and the story behind it, his alleged affairs with several leading heroines and his love-hate relationships with his male co-stars. All this would have made for some superb on screen drama.
Sanju is undoubtedly Ranbir Kapoor’s career best performance and will fetch him all the awards and recognition. Don’t go looking for a fair and accurate depiction of Dutt’s life and you won’t be disappointed. Watch it for the sheer entertainment it provides and the unmatched versatility of Ranbir Kapoor.
Reviewed by Tushar P Joshi
**** Very good