By Syed Ali Mujtaba
‘Sanju,’ the movie based on the real life story of actor Sanjay Dutt, is so far the best release of the year 2018. Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and director Rajkumar Hirani, the big names in Hindi film industry, have done a commendable job. ‘Sanju,’ is undoubtedly an exciting, entertaining and gripping movie.
Ranbir Kapoor’s stupendous performance as Sanjay Dutt and rookie, Vicky Kaushal as Kumar Gurav, (Sanjay Dutt’s real life best friend) has made the movie reach to some dazzling heights.
‘Sanju’ is based on colourful lifestyle of the actor Sanjay Dutt. It depicts the tale of the trail and tribulation of stars son born with silver spoon. Sunjay Dutt is son of iconic star couple Nargis and Sunil Dutt. He has hogged the limelight since he is born and his life story that is an open book that millions of his fans envy and relish.
Sanjay Dutt was launched as hero by his father Sunil Dutt in the movie ‘Rocky’ (1976). It took quite a while for him to get out of the shadow of his star parents and he had to struggle a lot to carve out his own place in Hindi cinema. His films like; Sajan, Kalnayak, Vastaw, Munna Bhai, all are known for his stellar performances.
Since the beginning, Sanjay Dutt has been a cynosure of all eyes. When he was an adolescent and growing to be a young man, he lived a lifestyle of a drug addict and alcoholic. His wayward lifestyle made into headlines and his freaky tales filled the gossip columns.
Sanjay Dutt’s connection with underworld was a much talked about topic in the media. That was a time when many film stars had to develop connection with Mumbai’s underworld to remain safe because they held sway over the Hindi film industry. However, it was Sanjay Dutt’s connection that was more talked about amongst all.
As Sanjay Dutt was climbing his ladder of success in the Hindi flim industry, his father Sunil Dutt, entered into politics. He became Member of Parliament on Congress ticket. Since then the Hindu right wing political elements started targeting him. This was because Sunil Dutt married, ‘Nargis’ a Muslim and his secular ideals were not received well the Hindu right elements.
When all this was taking place, then some of the most tragic moments gripped India. The ‘Babari masjid’ was demolished in Ayodhya, UP in 1992. This triggered a wave of Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai. Muslims were targeted in a pre-planned manner in those riots. Sunil Dutt came out to help the riot victims of Mumbai and he was targeted by the Hindu group as they viewed him as pro Muslim.
.In this atmosphere of hate and revenge, some members of underworld group in Mumbai, engineered a series of bomb blasts to counter in the city to the mosque demolition and the subsequent riots.
The Mumbai bomb blasts which took many innocent lives not only shook the megapolis of western India but the entire country. What followed in its aftermath were arrests of the criminals and enemies of the nation.
In this whirlpool of real time hatred and revenge drama, Sanjay Dutt was sucked into it quite innocently. He and his father were under the life threat from Hindu fanatics. In order to protect himself and his family, Sanjay Dutt procured unlicensed “assault rifle” from Mumbai’s underworld. This revelation came when the criminals made confessional statements AND Sanjay Dutt’s folly came to limelight. The national media branded him as terrorist. He was arrested imprisoned and lived in jail like a hard core criminal.
When Sanjay Dutt, was out on bail many film makers cashed on his new found image. Movies like ‘Khalnayak’ and ‘Vastav’ etc cashed on his negative image.
This chapter of Sanjay Dutt’s life ended when the Supreme Court exonerated him from all criminal charges, except the gun possessing case. And for that he had to serve three years in jail, He is now a freeman absolved of all such charges.
This story of Sanjay Dutt is a real potboiler. There is lot of drama, conflict and internal trauma in this real life story. A biopic on him is something that was long overdue. Rajkumar Hirani, exactly did what people were expecting from him.
Hirani in his movie ‘PK’ attacked the fake ‘Godman,’ and in ‘Sanju’ he trained his gun the fake news. He has taken the problem head-on and by narrating the story of Sanjay Dutt, he exposed the nefarious designs of the unscrupulous media. How media can go to any length to manufacture fake news is the larger point that Hirani makes while telling the story ‘Sanju.’
Even though the movie ‘Sanju’ has tried to paint a positive image of actor Sanjay Dutt, the point of difference is, it has deliberately tried to cloak him as a playboy, to sell the movie, which in fact not true about Dutt’s real life.
Another piece of Sanjay Dutt is his marital life’s that is totally ignored in this movie. The mercurial actor is a victim of his own fate, when it comes to having his life partner. His first wife Richa Sharma (1987–1996) died of cancer leaving behind a daughter. His second wife Rhea Pillai (1998–2008) took divorce to marry Leander Paes. Sanjay Dutt at last found marital bliss in Manyata, his third partner with whom he has two children.
The narration of the story in the movie ‘Sanju’ is flawless and gripping. The screenplay and dialogues is of top notch. The technique of flash back and flash forward is conveniently used as its Hirani’s forte.
A sizable portion of the film is shot in America as Sanjay Dutt’s real life association with that country. This have given the look and feel to the movie and has made it look grand.
Performances wise, Ranbir Kapoor has proven the point that he is chip of the old block, and his acting genes comes from his great grandfather, Pirthvi Raj Kapoor.
Vicky Kaushal who enacted the role of Kumar Gaurav, (Sanjay Dutt’s real life best friend) has put a life in this character. Anuska Sharma and Sonam Kapoor are visual delights.
The only weak point of the film is Parash Raval. He is unable to fit into the character of Sunil Dutt and looks more like himself than Sunil Dutt. If the filmmakers had done more brainstorming on finalising a suitable cast for Sunil Dutt’s role, the movie ‘Sanju’ still could have been more gripping.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]