Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jun 2018 12:15:50




By Aasawari Shenolikar

Of all the present day actors in Bollywood, Sanjay Dutt’s journey has been the most exceptional and extraordinary. Given his lineage, he could have had the world at his feet - the world could have been his stage. Unfortunately, life took an ugly turn and he became talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. If it was only drugs that he found himself embroiled in, it could have been easy for the family to deal with. That they did too, for with their unstinted support he was able to come out nearly unscathed from the nightmare that had haunted him for five long years. But it was the stigma of TADA, the shame of being labeled a terrorist that took its toll on one of the most revered families of Bollywood. Even though Sanjay Dutt was steadfast in his refusal of being associated with any anti-nationals -’I am not a terrorist’ is what he stuck to during the tedious court cases, the public was not ready to pay any heed to his earnest pleas. In due course, he was absolved of TADA charges, and sentenced for illegally being in possession of arms. But ask the janta about his jail, and the response most often would be ‘He was jailed for his alleged role in the Mumbai bombings.’  A tiny bit of him must have always wanted for his side to be known to the public. Which is probably why he opened up to Rajkumar Hirani, the director who has given Sanjay Dutt his mega hits. Finding Dutt’s story ‘crazily compelling’, the storyteller grabbed the opportunity and took three years to make a riveting tale - definitely worth the long wait.

Hirani, in Sanju, has done exactly what he had promised the actor - shown it the way it was narrated to him, filmed it the way he saw it in his mind. Hirani, has very ably, on the big screen, brought alive the flawed and fragmented life of Dutt, parts that the public is aware of, parts that were private and have been brought forth now. Even though it is extremely difficult to encapsulate someone’s life, and that too someone who has led a roller coaster life, a life that has many layers and sub layers, in something less than three hours, Hirani has wonderfully woven the intricate fragments together, and has unlocked many areas from Dutt’s life that were hitherto untapped. The film is not an exhaustive account of each and every facet of Dutt’s life - his love affairs have barely been touched, the bombings, the court cases, interrogations too sketchy, but even then these vignettes add to the entirety of the film.

The film starts on a light note ( I am sure a few feathers will be ruffled at the comparisons drawn between Bapu and Baba), and then delves into dark territories, taking us into a world of drugs and sex, and later terrorism. Hirani’s acumen of dealing with the vulnerabilities and sensitivity of an individual bogged down by the name and fame of his parents and his insecurities of living up to their expectations is exemplary. As Dutt takes baby steps into the world of films, singing ‘Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai’ to the real love of his life, he is already steeped in the murky world of drugs. Acquaintances play upon his caginess and his mother Nargis’ terminal illness weighs heavy upon him all the time, plunging into a dark, bottomless abyss. The death of his mother, just three days before the release of Rocky, his debut film, was a devastating blow for him. If it were not for the unstinting support from his family and a friend whom he had befriended in New York, Dutt would never have been able to overcome his addiction problem.

The first half of the film is dedicated to Dutt’s drug problems and the second half explores his tryst with the underworld and their devious activities. It also takes a candid look at how the media is judgmental and even before the court can pronounce its verdict, the media has already tainted him for what he probably is not. Did the same thing happen in Dutt’s case? Hirani sharply brings all these angles into focus. The enfant terrible’s seething discontent with the world leading to an aggravated use of all the drugs known to mankind, his trails and tribulations, his insecurities that led him to join hands with the underworld (‘ What could I do, I was getting calls about how my family will be killed, my sisters would be raped’), Hirani has tapped into these instances, making Sanju a gripping tale. Sanju's narrative is intriguing but the triumph comes at a cruel price - cruelty being the productive years of a fine actor gone waste. And we are not talking about the loss at a personal level. Abhijaat Joshi’s writing evokes empathy towards the flawed and fractured life of an actor. And Hirani, with the strong script, brings out a strong nuanced performance from the protagonist.

Ranbir Kapoor not only gets into the skin of the actor he is playing on the screen, he taps into the soul of the character and hence what you see on the screen is not Ranbir Kapoor but Sanjay Dutt. The walk, the talk, the slight stoop of the shoulder, the profile, - it’s all Baba on the screen. Kapoor’s act is par excellence and it’s a treat to watch him go through a gamut of emotions. Under Hirani’s baton, Kapoor makes us laugh, he makes us cry, he makes us happy, he makes us sad - in short he makes the audience a part of his life. We all are up close and personal with Kapoor.Credit to the sharp editing skills of Hirani, the narrative is without any hiccups and there is not a single scene where Kapoor, or the other actors have gone overboard. The accomplished actor that he is, Vicky Kaushal as Dutt’s friend lends a certain light-hearted element as well as gravitas to his role.
While Kapoor got each nuance of Dutt right, Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt falters. Difficult to put him in Sr Dutt’s shoes. Plus his accent doesn’t help much. The Gujju just cannot mouth the Punjabi ‘Puttar’ with the right lehja. All the girls, right in the characters they are playing.

Sanju, a film about love, emotions and friendship, is undeniably a terrific show of two strong and brilliant R’s - Raju and Ranbir. Go watch! And don’t miss out on the song that is played when the credits roll out at the end. That is like icing on the cake.

The Hitavada Rating: OOO1/2