‘Sanju’ is hardly the biopic it gleefully projects itself to be. Biopics are meant to be didactic compasses based on flawed personalities, where the subject isn’t necessarily the ‘hero.’ It’s meant to relay a sense of realism that isn’t too shrouded in mist, and of course, traits of grayness must exist because this particular genre cannot be dipped in any form of fakery if its meant to be honest (and believable). Instead, I walked out of ‘Sanju’ feeling like I’d been brainwashed, having watched a mettlesome hagiography instead.
‘Sanju’ is a tedious, three-hour film lynched by self-evasion and self-justification. The script has been crafted in Sanjay Dutt’s favor entirely so, with director Rajkumar Hirani’s fidelity to the star very evident throughout. Sanjay bought guns to protect his family, he became a drug addict as a way of dealing with his mother’s death and his father’s dominance, his scandalous tendencies were all down to evil journalism, and the somewhat 300 women he bed were all because he had a broken heart.
Rajkumar Hirani refuses to dig deeper into his subject – leaving you with latched moments that precariously string together a weak montage of rumpled situations in the exalted, brawny actor’s life. The director spends the entire film dismissing Sanjay’s disgusting and misogynistic behavior as simple misunderstandings and refuses to address the darker kernel that lies behind it all. Unfortunately, the star remains a star and is deliberately kept unhuman. I end up knowing very little about who Sanjay Dutt is, and that is the biggest glaring flaw within ‘Sanju.’
You are forced to sympathize with Sanjay Dutt and despite spectacular amounts of uneasiness clouding your horizon, it’s laughable that such a rich entertainment industry is corrupt with spuriousness. Sanjay’s many dalliances are highlighted but brushed off uncomfortably so as the alleged abuse that coupled them is conveniently left out of the film, with all his incessant philandering accepted blindly with no trajectory to decipher why he’s doing it all. Ranbir shines, and we see how hard he’s worked to dip his toes fully into becoming Sanjay body and soul despite Rajkumar’s limiting scope for the actor to make this facade of an altruistic biopic his own.
Sanjay’s first wife, actress Richa Sharma, who succumbed to a brain tumor in 1996 is left out entirely, torn from Rajkumar’s version of Sanjay’s life. Other instances in Sanjay’s life aren’t touched upon, from his court battle for custody of his daughter following his first wife’s death to his many affairs and his subsequent relationship with his daughter. ‘Sanju,’ like I said, isn’t a biopic. It’s dishonest, harrowingly fake and essentially blames everyone else for Sanjay’s many faults. It’s not untrue, it’s cherry-picked and just another feather in Bollywood’s cap for a privileged director idealizing a privileged megastar, with an allegiance that isn’t unfading any time soon. ‘Sanju‘ is wrapped up in feeble attempts at whitewashing Sanjay, and it’s sad as to how obvious it is. Furthermore, various characters missing from Sanjay’s life are sprinkled in to give the film more Bollywood flare, from Winnie (Anushka Sharma), Ruby (Sonam Kapoor) and drug dealer Jim Sarbh – it’s fictionalized to the point of profound confusion.
The takeaways from ‘Sanju’ are undoubtedly two performances that will bag all awards. Ranbir Kapoor leaves you spellbound long after the credits roll in (I’m still reeling in complete awe of the actor, who has outdone himself). Vicky Kaushal as Sanju’s best friend and virtuous backbone is simply breathtaking to watch, marking this as his best performance to date. The rest of the cast are wastrels and are mere ornaments used to allure audiences for their star power. Rajkumar Hirani should stick to what he knows best – making feel-good films that encompass his own magical fable-esque way of storytelling, that isn’t bound by anything real – because ‘Sanju’ is a cover-up for his close friend Sanjay Dutt and an out for a very troubled actor who is instead glorified and sensationalized to an unspeakable extent.
Have you watched ‘Sanju?’ What do you think of the film?