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Movie Review: Sanju

Banners: Rajkumar Hirani Films, Vinod Chopra Films

Producers: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Fox Star Studios

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Dia Mirza, Manisha Koirala, Anushka Sharma, Jim Sarbh, Sonam K Ahuja, Boman Irani

Writers: Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi

Music: AR Rahman, Vikram Montrose, Rohan Rohan

All it takes is three names to sum up the film Sanju – Sanju himself, Rajkumar Hirani and Ranbir Kapoor. That is, actor Sanjay Dutt, on whose life this biopic has been made; the man who has penned and directed the film, Rajkumar Hirani; and Ranbir Kapoor, who has essayed the title role. You don’t really need anything else; the rest is just icing on the cake. If Sanju is a cinematic experience for the audience, you could consider it syllabus for every filmmaker.

The Hindi film industry has churned out many biopics but there’s something different about this one. The obvious reason is – it’s a biopic of Sanjay Dutt and has been made by maverick filmmaker Hirani. Undoubtedly, Hirani once again proves he’s the BEST director we have in today’s times. And with his performance, Ranbir Kapoor proves yet again that he’s one of the BEST actors we have in today’s times. And the combination of Hirani and Abhijat Joshi is the best writer team that we have today.

The film begins with Sanjay Dutt aka Sanju, who is all set to go back to prison to complete his term of six years. But before that, he wants his life to be told as he has lived it and not as it has been made out by the media. His wife Maanyataa introduces him to Winnie Diaz, a writer. First, she refuses to even meet Sanju because she does not want to write about a terrorist. A ‘chance’ encounter with a real estate developer, Zubin Mistry, affirms her decision.

But then Sanju persuades her to give him just an hour to tell his story. Thus begins the roller coaster life of Sanjay Dutt. Shooting for his first film Rocky, his introduction to drugs, trying to come to terms with his mother’s illness, his constant struggle to be his father’s good son, his friendship with Kamlesh, losing his love Ruby, his mother’s death, his stint in rehab, returning to films and of course regular prison visits after the Mumbai bomb blasts. When Dutt is finally convicted to six years’ imprisonment under the Arms Act and when he is finally released at the end of his term, Diaz places in his hands his biography titled Kuch Toh Log Kahenge.

Each and every frame depicts that both the writers Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani had quite a challenge at hand. Telling the story of a personality like Sanjay Dutt is not easy. But the duo has managed to offer an almost real account of the actor’s life with a good dose of entertainment, while also maintaining a high emotional quotient. They have chosen the two main aspects from Sanju’s life – his problem with drugs and his arrest under TADA. Using these two important life events as the backdrop, the writers also tell an emotional and engaging story of a father and son. The beauty of the writing is that it does not make any excuses for any of Sanjay Dutt’s actions, nor does it try to justify them.

There is no effort to paint him as a victim of circumstances or as an extraordinary human being. There is a dialogue in the film when Kamlesh tells Sunil Dutt, “Don’t try to make him Sunil Dutt. He cannot become like you. Just let him be Sanjay Dutt. Tell him that it is okay to be ordinary.” In that sense, the story is an honest portrayal. But, yes, the writers have left out mentioning any real-life names that are associated with the actor, from his personal life and professional life. 

Every frame of the film exudes positivity and hope. Hirani seems to have told his DoP S Ravivarman what exactly he wants his film to look like. The darkest moments in Sanju’s life are not doused in dark lighting or dull photography. Even in the scenes where Sanju is hallucinating under the influence of drugs, the frames are filled with bright colours. All the gravity in the scenes and the emotions in the narrative are there in the dialogue and the expressions of the actors.

Songs have always been a highlight of Hirani’s films, and he has used them only to take the story forward. They have the same effect in Sanju as well. Of course, the crème da le crème composition is Kar har maidaan fateh. It is a song that inspires and motivates; a perfect anthem to Sanju. Rahman’s Ruby ruby is different, but then it is when Sanju is high on drugs. 

Performance-wise, Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt delivers one of his most dignified and underplayed performances to date. He has not tried to copy Dutt saab or his body language, but he brings forth the anguish, the love and the pride that a father feels for his son. Manisha Koirala as Nargisji is the epitome of grace. She lights up the frame every time she comes on screen.

Vicky Kaushal as Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi, a fan of the Dutts who becomes Sanju’s best friend, is a treat to watch. His role in the film is at par with Kapoor’s. He delivers his lines in genuine Gujarati accent without making it sound like a caricature. The bromance between Sanju and Kamlesh is one the main highlights of the film.

Now for the actor who plays the title role, Ranbir Kapoor. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Ranbir Kapoor is Sanjay Dutt, that’s the impact he leaves with his performance. He’s entitled to deserve every award for his performance, including a National Award. 

Jim Sarbh as Zubin Mistry, the friend who introduces Sanju to drugs, is wicked. Sonam K Ahuja as Ruby, Sanju’s girlfriend, plays her part well. Dia Mirza as Maanyataa Dutt plays her part well too. Anushka Sharma as Winnie Diaz is superb. Boman Irani as Ruby’s father provides a few laughs.

Verdict: A Masterpiece, BLOCKBUSTER!!!

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