Ever since I shifted to Delhi, I have become super-selective about the films I watch in theatres. The soaring ticket prices don’t go well with the deteriorating standard of Hindi cinema. Badly edited trailers scream the story in your face and you almost envisage the fate of the film. But then, every once in a while, there comes a trailer that sweeps you off your feet. You get intrigued and anxiously wait for the release date. For me, Sanju was that film.
Back in Kolkata, I could just walk up to the multiplex with my friends and buy an inexpensive ticket for a late night show. It didn’t matter if the film didn’t meet my expectations. Here in the national capital, when I have to shell out a substantial amount of time, moolah and effort for a ticket, I like to ensure that the film is above the average Bollywood fare. Plus, if I sacrifice my Sunday morning siesta to go out for a movie, it speaks volumes about the kind of expectations I held from Sanju.
As the opening scene unveils, the first thing that strikes you is Ranbir Kapoor’s uncanny resemblance to Sanjay Dutt. Kudos to the makeup and prosthetics team for nailing each and every look through the different stages of Dutt’s life. However, Kapoor’s resemblance to Dutt doesn’t end at face value. Be it the latter’s voice, body language or unique mannerisms, Kapoor’s chameleon-like transformation is hard hitting. A jam-packed theatre applaudes as the cocky Sanju Baba gets rid of yet another biographer who fails to carry his true story to the public.
Paresh Rawal, as Sanju’s father Sunil Dutt, may not have metamorphosed as well into his character. But his acting prowess more than makes up for it. From the strict father who rebukes his son for smoking a cigarette, he slips into the shoes of a companion who helps Sanju overcome every challenge – from addiction to the TADA case. Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt, despite her limited screen time, is a delight to watch.
Sanju: Powerhouse performances failed by a weak script
Unfortunately though, Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi’s script fails to do justice to such brilliants performances by powerhouse actors. Anyone who has the slightest interest in the who’s who of Hindi film industry, is probably aware of the roller coaster ride that Sanjay Dutt’s life has been. The script falters as it tries to whitewash Dutt’s image, making him look like the victim of his own circumstances. Despite the tumultuous journey that the titular character goes through, the audience never really gets to be a part of it.
Hirani attempts to tickle our tear glands with various emotional scenes. However, the drama in these scenes gets a little over the top, making them mushy and forgettable. In Hirani’s picture perfect world, there is no scope for darkness and grit. The audience is never offered a seat on this roller coaster ride of Dutt’s life. Rather, the audience takes a backseat and observes every incident as a passive spectator – without the right to have an opinion or judgement.
My other problem with the script is the portrayal of women in Sanju’s life. From his first girlfriend Ruby to his present wife Maanyata, they are used as mere props to take Sanju’s story forward. There is no development in their arcs, no account of how they suffer and recover along with Dutt. Same goes for Priya Dutt’s blink-and-you-miss-it character. All these women, strong in their own right, never find a voice in the story of Sanju. Anushka Shamra, as biographer Winnie Diaz, fails to make a mark despite here unique hairstyle and accent.
The real hero of Sanju
All said and done, the only thing that lingers as the end credits roll, is Vicky Kaushal’s honest portrayal of Sanju’s best friend Kamli. Loosely based on Sanjay Dutt’s real life best friend Kumar Gaurav, Kaushal breathes life into Kamlesh’s character. His conviction is evident in every scene, as he stands by Sanju through all his upheavals. Some of my most memorable scenes in the film are those in which Kaushal and Kapoor share screen space.
Sadly, I was left with a longing for what the film could have been, instead of rejoicing what actually became of the film.