While I was watching this movie, a fleeting thought that occurred to me was that biopics are very difficult to make. A person carries multiple facets throughout his life and condensing it to a duration of 3 hours is no easy feat. Hence, it is the writer’s prerogative to show whichever facet he wishes to delve into. Sometimes, the writer’s perspective connects with the audience and the other times, it just appears not completely honest. Director Rajkumar Hirani’s much awaited ‘Sanju’, falls slightly in the latter category.
Written by the director himself along with his co-writer from his previous blockbusters, Abhijat Joshi, Sanju is a retelling of the tumultuous times in the life of ‘Bad Boy’, Sanjay Dutt. With a spectacular Ranbir Kapoor in the lead, Sanju has an equally strong supporting cast, headlined by Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Sonam Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Dia Mirza and Anushka Sharma. The movie is the journey of Sanjay Dutt, focusing majorly on his tryst with alcohol, drugs and his infamous brush with the law in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. This is where I found the writing to be uneven and not completely honest. The focus seemed to be primarily on Sanjay Dutt’s legal troubles and at one point, it seemed like the movie was made to cleanse his image. Probably, the other facets of his life were not included as they involved prominent people – his publicly famous affairs with his leading ladies, his two wives before Manyata, his estranged daughter and his equation with the other actors in the industry. So, the writers chose a script that tries not to offend anyone.
The makers also issue a disclaimer that the movie is based on ‘true events’, but they have taken certain ‘cinematic liberties’. So, the writers can be given the benefit of doubt about their narrative, where the lines between facts and fiction seem to have been blurred. For example, one of the prominent characters is Sanjay Dutt’s best friend, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi (played by Vicky Kaushal) – a friend nobody heard about before today. But, the bumpy writing is camouflaged by brilliant performances by the well-cast ensemble! Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt is phenomenal! He acts with so much conviction that you see Sanjay Dutt on the screen, and not Ranbir Kapoor. He puts his well-honed acting skills to good use, and transforms brilliantly from a 21-year-old drug addict to a middle-aged man fighting to get his name cleared. It is undoubtedly his best performance till date!
Among the supporting characters, it was Vicky Kaushal as Sanjay Dutt’s Gujarati bestfriend, Kamli, who has outdone himself. He is witty, has the perfect Gujju-slang and delivers a powerful performance, maintaining his ground without being the main lead. After a very long time, we see Paresh Rawal in an extremely important and lengthy role as Sanjay Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, playing the guide and teacher that Sanju needed. His scenes with Ranbir Kapoor are pure gold, especially the one where they both sing at the harbor. Also, I liked his life lessons and linking them to Bollywood songs. Manisha Koirala has a small role, but is effective and should work more often! Sonam Kapoor, after being the weakest actor in ‘Veere Di Wedding’, delivers a much better performance, as Sanjay Dutt’s Parsi girlfriend who leaves him to marry a doctor in USA (Parsi and Married to a doctor in the US- Subtle reference to two of Sanjay Dutt’s most famous affairs!). Dia Mirza is just about okay, but my major issue was with the caricature played by Anushka Sharma. As Sanjay Dutt’s biographer, she is placed under a quirky façade, with atrocious hair and sky-blue eyes, making her look less of a human!
The movie has a typical Rajkumar Hirani stamp all over it – it is comical, it has subtle romance, there is rebellion and bouts of emotional scenes too. But, the emotional connect somehow gets lost due to the various inconsequential subplots and some Bollywood masala elements. Rajkumar Hirani is one of those rare directors, whose repertoire is a testimony of successfully blending elements of mass appeal with a strong message. Like ‘3 idiots’ talked about the flaws in our education system and ‘PK’ questioned superstition, Sanju tries to fight sensational journalism and trial by media. Rajkumar Hirani, who also edited the movie, keeps it crisp by reducing the length of the songs. But still, the movie is generously long at 2 hours 45 minutes.
Despite the irregular writing and its length, Sanju works for its brilliant performances and Rajkumar Hirani’s craft. But yes, it deserved a better script.
My Rating – 3/5