“Keep the factual inaccuracies aside. Ignore the intentional bias. And you’ve got yourself a great movie to watch.”
‘Quirky’, ‘unconventional’, ‘exciting’, ‘compelling’. That is what I think of a Rajkumar Hirani movie. The man is a master storyteller who knows well how to strike a chord with the audience. He manages to appeal to our slightly gentler sides, which makes his movies even more likable. Munna Bhai, 3 idiots, PK. They all had one thing in common. They all were able to build an emotional connect with the audience. Hirani has done it time and again.
The question is, has he been able to do the same with Sanju? I’ll say, yes. A big yes as a matter of fact. Not only has he managed to keep the soul of a Hirani movie but also exceeded the ridiculously high standards set up by him. Sanju is one of the best if not the best works by him.
Based on the life of as controversial as famous Sanjay Dutt, this movie was always expected to hit the headlines. The overwhelming response it has received over the past few weeks has only corroborated those expectations. Throughout his career, Sanjay Dutt has managed to remain in the headlines and that is probably what inspired the makers to work on this project. As they have pointed out in the movie itself, “the audience likes masala”. Ironically enough, they have used what they mocked in the movie.
Talking about the story, it’s an anecdote of a few major incidents of Dutt’s life. The movie revolves around Dutt’s relationship with his father and best friend, his struggle with drug abuse and his brush ups with the judiciary. The movie is fairly light-hearted in the beginning. Quintessential to a Hirani movie, you find yourself giggling in situations where you usually won’t (Something of a Hirani trademark. Remember the scene in 3 idiots when Raju takes Rancho and Farhan for a meal at his home?). Dutt’s journey of overcoming his drug addiction makes for an inspiring story. It also establishes that our protagonist is good at heart and just a victim of wrong choices.
After an engaging and entertaining first half (which by the way feels like a movie in itself), things take a much grimmer turn at the interval. We start hearing words like ‘terrorist’, ‘Mumbai blasts’, ‘AK-56’, ‘TADA’. This is where the story jumbles at little bit. It chooses to conveniently ignore many established facts and shows only parts which fit the whole narrative of Sanjay Dutt being an innocent man (more on that later).
This is something with which not even the most eagle-eyed critics should have a qualm. Even during the announcement of the movie, I was left impressed with the casting of the ensemble cast. Bollywood has kind of adopted this trend of casting strong actors in supporting roles. Movies are not just about the main character anymore. Supporting actors give so much more width to it.
Ranbir Kapoor has done an amazing job. He is exceptional in every sense. Playing a character who the audience knows so well was a monumental task and he has succeeded well in it. After a few flops and semi-hits, Ranbir is out for a vengeance (Give him a Filmfare already). He has let his craft speak for him. The Kapoor scion is a worthy argument as to why nepotism is not as bad.
Apart from him, we have the powerhouses Paresh Rawal (Sunil Dutt) and Vicky Kaushal (Kamlesh). They both have done justice to their characters. Paresh Rawal, being the veteran that he is, has even managed to outshine Ranbir in few scenes. The character played by Vicky Kaushal manages to win our hearts. Such is his sincerity for the character. There should be no doubts about why this ‘Masaan’ actor is the new darling of Bollywood.
Manisha Koirala as Nargis is absolutely delightful. It wouldn’t have hurt to see more of her. Jim Sarbh has again done a great job (Again!). Rest of the characters are brief and do not actually make much of an impression. Anushka is alright. Sonam Kapoor and Dia Mirza are just there. Boman Irani, a constant in all of Hirani movies, is very brief but good.
Speaking strictly in terms of filmmaking, the movie is an absolute treat to watch. Hirani has weaved his magic again. The screenplay feels effortless and the pace is appropriate in keeping the audience hooked. The highlight of the movie is the depiction of Dutt’s relationship with his father. The genuineness is there to be seen. As part of an audience, one would get deeply involved in the emotional scenes, and even shed a tear or two (Well, I did). The chemistry between Sanju and Kamlesh manages to pull a few strings in the heart. The depiction of friendship is beautiful and feels authentic. You would be reminded of your own buddies.
I also liked how the movie shows that a man pays for his actions, no matter if he is a celebrity or not. Despite Dutt being a famous actor and the son of a politician, he had to spend time in the prison. Life can be hard even for the privileged.
Also, the movie very aptly points to the hypocrisy of the Indian media. It also mocks our blind faith in it and urges us to be more considerate.
Not so good
All is not rosy though. The makers manage to conveniently ignore many other aspects of Dutt’s life just in order to show him as an innocent man. From always portraying him as just an innocent man making wrong decisions to consciously ignoring that he has always been the bad boy of Bollywood. The whole movie looks like a propaganda to improve Dutt’s public image (Some say Munna Bhai 3 is coming. I don’t suppose it has anything to do with that. Or does it?).
Now, I am not against all this, but this forced effort to repaint someone’s image looks a bit too stretched. You cannot call it a biopic after ignoring so many facts. In many of Dutt’s previous interviews, he seems to contradict what has been shown in the movie. Also, there is no mention of how Dutt manages to come out of jail. What was Sunil Dutt’s role in it?
Every human is a sinner and what makes a man great is to accept it and learn from it. Sanju forces you to believe that this man is a saint.
We watch movies for entertainment and that is the parameter I’ve judge this movie on. Keeping the factual inaccuracies and the intentional bias aside, this movie is a treat to watch. The way the story is presented to empathize with the protagonist actually works well and as an audience, we even end up shedding few tears for him. The emotional scenes are too powerful and the sheer beauty of human bonds that have been shown is appreciable. Some scenes are strong enough to make even the most stone heated people melt.
So, just keep the factual inaccuracies aside. Ignore the intentional bias. And you’ve got yourself a great movie to watch. Just keep in mind that this is not at all a biopic. Maybe too good to be true?
Well, most of you would have watched it by now. Drop your comments in the section below and share your views too.