‘Sex-pear’, as in Shakespeare, is not just a broad, funny reference running through Sanju . There’s something Shakespearean about the film itself, abundantly underlined in the film with its drama, theatrics and rough humour and broad farce. The characters, situations, gags and emotions feel unusually heightened, and the performances are acutely crafted than off the cuff. For large parts Sanju feels staged than filmed, like watching a play recorded on camera than a film itself. Instead of taking you into its world, it seems to deliberately work on the opposite principle: of making you acutely conscious about witnessing the life and times of Sanjay Dutt as outsiders, with the screen becoming a substitute proscenium. Perhaps that’s Raj Kumar Hirani’s way of dealing with the dilemma of bringing a living individual under the cinematic scanner, who the audience is aware of or even friends with.
Sanju started off on a dissonant note for me, it took a long while to settle down in its world of excesses. The caricaturish feel, the slapstick tone, the garish colours, the kitschy backdrops and in the midst of it, manipulative scenes like the one juxtaposing Dutt’s innocent kids next to the rabble-rousing reactions against him on television news and a shrill Sonam Kapoor yelling aloud for a missing mangalsutra. Be it lachrymose sentiments, adolescent humour, unsubtle potshots at people’s accents, some really deadbeat wordplay with ‘snakes’ and ‘hole’ and an obvious broad jibe at a well-known political figure, Hirani has his familiar no holds-barred, unapologetic ways which could border on the politically incorrect for some. Those who found the balatkaar (rape) gag in 3 Idiots offensive, might be repulsed by an ageist one in Sanju about a 91-year-old woman and another about satisfying one’s talab (desire). I was plain bored and alarmed at not feeling invested enough, something that hasn’t ever happened for me with a Hirani movie, the misgivings notwithstanding.
- Director: Raj Kumar Hirani
- Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Dia Mirza, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor
- Storyline: Part fact, part fiction account of star Sanjay Dutt’s life
- Run time: 161.45 minutes
The film only comes together when the story builds on Dutt’s inner demons, his rehabilitation, the father-son relationship between Sunil and Sanjay Dutt and his friendship with Kamlesh. These threads remain the most compelling though they’re given a short shrift eventually. Women are totally inconsequential in Sanju ’s world, be it the abject wife (Dia Mirza), the biographer in a bad wig (Anushka Sharma) or even his mother Nargis (Manisha Koirala). They are the crutches in Sanjay Dutt’s life, around only to bolster him. Ranbir Kapoor swings between obvious mimicry of Dutt to going deep and intense with his self-destructive ways and an uneasy relationship with his father. Vicky Kaushal does a standout turn as Dutt’s friend and moral keeper.
Drugs, booze and women — Hirani doesn’t hide the fault lines in Dutt’s life. He swings between a sense of waste and pity (not sympathy mind you) for his addictions to an awkward indulgence when it comes to his candidness about the number of women in his life (350, not counting the prostitutes). However, it’s never ever Dutt’s mistake — it’s either a drug dealer in garb of a friend (Jim Sarbh with a bad lisp) or the legacy of a great father that he can’t live up to. Dutt is never made to own up for any of his omissions, transgressions, bad choices, sheer foolhardiness and idiocy. Ultimately, the film is not as much about the flaws in the hero as about him being wronged by the media which is yet a convenient villain.