The day is finally here when all Sanjay Dutt fans will get to witness his journey on the silver screen. Sanju, a biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor has so far received thumbs up from the industry people. However, the real litmus test will start today when the movie releases in theatres and fans rush in to watch RK Jr’s act as Sanjay Dutt. The Rockstar actor in his numerous interactions for Sanju promotions revealed how difficult it was to get in Sanjay’s different characters since he has lived so many lives. From the time he made his debut until today, his journey was a roller coaster ride and directing the same for the audiences is not everyone’s cup of tea. Yet Rajkumar Hirani took up this challenge and tried to compress his 37-year-old journey in three hours. But will Sanju justify his hard work? Will Ranbir Kapoor get applauded for his act? Our Editor-in-Chief, Tushar Joshi is currently watching the film and the first half is over. He has sent his first impressions and here’s what he has to say.
Sanju is a cosmic galaxy with Sanjay Dutt at the centre of this crazy universe. The biopic on one of the most celebrated and controversial actors of our times gets an unconventional treatment at the hands of Rajkumar Hirani. There’s not a single moment in the first half where you get to relax or linger away from the spellbinding storyline. It’s a given that every aspect of Sanjay’s life is worth a standalone film. Be it his drug addiction, the strained relationship with his dad (Paresh Rawal), the guilt surrounding his mom’s (Manisha Koirala) death or his failed romance with his girlfriend Ruby (Sonam Kapoor). Anushka Sharma plays a biography writer who hesitantly takes on the daunting task of narrating Sanju’s life. Ranbir Kapoor becomes Sanju from the moment we set our eyes on him in the opening frame. There isn’t a scene or dialogue where we get a glimpse of Ranbir, he physically and emotionally slinks into the dark and murky life of Dutt.
Vicky Kaushal steals every scene with RK playing his best friend Kamlesh. He’s so good that a spin-off film on his friendship with Sanju would make an interesting narrative in itself. The first half revolves around his early life during the Rocky release and his drug abuse. Sanju takes a break on a shocking note where the second half drops hints of getting darker and focussing on his chapter of being labelled a terrorist and the events leading upto the arrest. Mind you Sanju is very entertaining, it is funny, witty, smart, goofy, endearing, will get you emotionally worked up. The first half of Sanju scores super high on every rating and I can’t wait to tour along with Ranbir as he narrates the life of an enigma – Sanjay Dutt.
The first 90 minutes of Sanju, however, belong to the heart-warming bromance between Ranbir as Dutt, and Vicky Kaushal, as his friend from the US, Kamli. It is through their friendship, and Dutt’s relationship with his father, that the plot of the Sanju unfurls. Sanju presents the intimate details of Sanjay Dutt’s life is a typically Hirani-esque manner. There’s an emotional message in every potential scene; the film doesn’t attempt to decode Sanjay Dutt or justify his life. Neither does it try to whitewash his flaws. Credit to Hirani for not painting Dutt with larger than life strokes. But there is a Bollywood-ish tinge to every scene. Through his first shot in his debut film, and the songs he sings with his girlfriend Ruby (Sonam Kapoor); through his fight with drugs and his stint in the US, where he spends his last few moments with mother Nargis; through his moments of friendship with a real friend (Vicky Kaushal) or a fake friend who gets him hooked onto drugs (Zubin Mistry, played by the wonderful Jim Sarbh) — Sanju is a Bollywood-ised account of Sanju Dutt’s life. It’s dramatic, calculatingly exciting and yet, cinematic.
Sanju’s biggest accomplishment are undoubtedly its performances. There are genuinely some shots where you won’t be able to tell you’re looking at Ranbir Kapoor, and not Sanjay Dutt. Vicky Kaushal shines, holding his own in the fun moments as well as serious scenes. Sanju is a gripping film, but one treads with caution. Caution because the agenda of Sanju is clear: to present an interesting and misunderstood story. To tell audiences that there are two sides to everything. And there is no doubt that Sanju is a great story. Even though this is so obviously Sanjay Dutt’s life account, we are told Kamlesh’s perspective, as the friend of a superstar/drug addict/limelight hogger. We are told Vinnie Diaz’s perspective (Anushka Sharma) — a biographer who slowly but surely falls in love with Sanjay Dutt’s story. It is the performances in Sanju that often make up for the one-dimensional writing.
Hirani makes it easier for audiences to engage with the film by broadly dividing Dutt’s life into two parts — his fight with drug addiction, and the jail term for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. But Sanju seems stuck in its own mould. It rarely rises above the boundaries it creates for itself. Hirani sticks so close to what he knows best — mixing commercial elements into a story with potential — that Sanju ends up feel like a version of Dutt’s life for children; a sanitised fable of sorts. You are very often left wanting more. What about the greys? What about the philosophical conflicts. This gap is filled by Ranbir Kapoor — a fine performer who understands his subject matter and audience. The film best moments belong to Ranbir and Vicky Kaushal, and Ranbir and Paresh Rawal. Sanju is high on emotions, and what triumphs is friendship, trust and the beautiful bond between a father and son.
Glimpses into the film industry and the underworld are minimal. We are not given an insight into the socio-cultural context in which Sanjay Dutt’s life unfolded. It would have been nice to see the world that Dutt inhabited (and now inhabits) with a little more depth. But worry not, the physicality of every character makes up for the lack of context. Each character looks their part. Aiding the narrative is a hummable soundtrack that one may not remember over time but works within the film. Ultimately Sanju is Ranbir Kapoor and Vicky Kaushal’s film. Both actors pull even the flawed parts of the film together, and neatly wrap the histrionics with flavour and variety. Sanju is an entertaining film, and has all the elements of a blockbuster — but one wishes the honesty and nuance went beyond just the performances.