Vinod Chopra Films and Rajkumar Hirani Films’ Sanju (UA) is a biopic on Sanjay Dutt. It deals with two major aspects of his colourful and rollercoaster ride-like life: one, dealing with his drug addiction before he became a popular film star, and the other, dealing with his brush with law for possession of an AK-56 rifle.
In its quest to present the two aforementioned important parts of Dutt’s life, from his point of view, the film concentrates on two major relationships – between Sanjay Dutt and his father, filmmaker, actor and MP Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal), and between Sanjay Dutt and his bosom pal, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi (Vicky Kaushal).
The film starts with Sanjay Dutt as a budding young actor, being directed by dad Sunil Dutt in his debut film, Rocky. It is evident quite early on that his father’s principles and image are too much for Sanjay to handle. Before one knows it, Sanjay falls into bad company and starts taking drugs. His friend and drug supplier is Zubin Mistry, also known as God (Jim Sarbh). The innocent stray incidents of doing drugs soon turn into an addiction which threatens Sanjay’s very life. The story also shows how Sanjay Dutt finds solace in substance abuse even while his mother, Nargis Dutt (Manisha Koirala), is battling with cancer at home, then in hospital in the USA, and then again at home in India. It is during his US visit for his mother’s hospitalisation that Sanjay meets Kamlesh who would go on to become a very close friend and a confidante. Why, Kamlesh flies from the US even when Sanjay needs him after his girlfriend, Ruby’s (Sonam Kapoor), father finalises her marriage with an NRI boy.
Things come to such a stage that after his mom’s demise and his break-up with Ruby, Sanjay has to be put in rehabilitation in the USA. A reformed Sanjay returns with his dad from the USA. The bond between Sanjay and his friend, Kamlesh, grows very strong – so strong that Kamlesh is by Sanjay’s side whenever he needs him. Sunil Dutt has also seen a true family friend in Kamlesh and is very fond of him.
In 1993, after Sanjay has become a very popular and successful Bollywood star, he is arrested for possession of an AK-56 rifle without licence. The media brands him a terrorist because the gun episode happens soon after the serial bomb blasts in Bombay in 1993. Sanjay Dutt is jailed. His father and family are devastated but stand behind Sanjay. Despite Sunil Dutt’s connections, nobody is willing to help because the draconian TADA has been slapped on Sanjay. Kamlesh is like a true pillar of strength in these trying times.
One day, Sanjay gets bail. But there comes a time when even Kamlesh severes all ties with Sanjay Dutt after it is reported by the media that a truck with RDX had been found parked in Sanjay Dutt’s compound. Kamlesh, who is in Sanjay’s home in India at that time, leaves for the USA, telling Sanjay that the friendship would have to end here. The Dutt family goes through hell as the legal battle goes on for years. Sunil Dutt passes away. Just a day before he breathes his last, Sanjay had prepared a speech which he was supposed to make on a public platform, in praise of his father. In that speech, he was to convey his true love for his father with whom his relations had been strained for obvious reasons. But Fate had so intervened that the contents of the speech were never conveyed to Sunil Dutt.
Years later, the final decision in Sanjay Dutt’s gun possession case is pronounced by the Supreme Court. Although he is held guilty under the Arms Act for illegal possession of a gun, he is acquitted under the TADA. He is given a five-year jail term. Before going to jail, he contacts celebrated author Winnie Diaz (Anushka Sharma) to write his side of the story to tell the world that he isn’t a terrorist. At first reluctant, Winnie agrees to pen his biography but mid-way, decides against it. Her dilemma increases when she meets Sanjay Dutt’s estranged friend, Kamlesh, in the USA. Finally, Maanayata Dutt (Dia Mirza) gives Winnie a recording of Sanjay Dutt’s radio show which he hosts in jail.
Does Winnie agree to write Dutt’s biography? Does Kamlesh reconnect with Sanjay?
The story, based on true-life incidents in Sanjay Dutt’s life, has been written by Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani. It has a lot of drama because of the many ups and downs in the colourful life led by the actor. Since it is a biopic, it presents the drama from the point of view of Sanjay Dutt himself. While it doesn’t try to hide the mistakes committed by Sanjay, it does not also justify his gun possession. The reason for keeping the gun doesn’t come across as being very solid. Also, the attempt to put the blame for the ignominy faced by the Dutt family, on one section of society (not being revealed here) seems a bit preposterous and may not find favour with many from that section of society as also from one tiny section of the audience. But these two ‘mistakes’ in the story are not such that they can take away from the many plus points and highlights in it. In fact, let it be said here that attempting to put the blame on that one section of society will be lapped up by the majority of the audience in a big way.
The screenplay, penned by the duo, is riveting and keeps the viewers hooked on to the drama all through. Yes, there are a few dips in the screenplay but they are minor aberrations. The best part about the screenplay is that it concentrates on the bonding between father and son and between two close friends. Although the story is grim and even depressing, the screenplay writers have laced it with humour and such heart-rending emotions that the impact of the grimness and the depression is diluted to advantage. There are absolutely landmark scenes which leave the audience stunned and shaken. For instance, the scene in which Kamlesh pleads with Sunil Dutt to save Sanjay Dutt from drugs, the scene in which Sanjay Dutt pleads with Kamlesh in the US to not leave him but rather to make him give up drugs, the scene in which Sunil Dutt asks Kamlesh not to switch on the fan in his room, the scene in which Sunil Dutt exults with joy when Sanjay throws the lawyer out, the scene in which Sanjay Dutt halucinates about the identity of his father, the scene in which Sanjay hugs his father and breaks down at the premiere of his first film, Rocky, the scene in which Sanjay bids a tearful farewell to Kamlesh after the RDX news, the scene in which Sanjay Dutt reacts to the toilet in his prison cell overflowing, the scene in which Kamlesh realises his folly in the climax, the scene in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., in which Sanjay Dutt and Sunil Dutt are locked in a tight embrace even after the director has said ‘cut’…. the list of highlight scenes is long, very long. Likewise, there are some fabulous light moments and scenes which would gladden the heart. The scene in which Sanjay Dutt and Zubin Mistry go in the middle of the night to Ruby’s house, the scene in which filmmaker Mahesh Manjrekar (played by himself) telephones Sanjay, the scene in which Sanjay prepares Kamlesh for his date with Pinky (Karishma Tanna), the scene in which Sanjay Dutt seeks help from the half-asleep minister (Anjan Srivastav) – all these scenes leave the audience smiling and laughing. No doubt, the light moments are few, and the audience yearns for more but that’s the way it is. Overall, the drama tugs at the heart strings of the viewers – and that too, on many occasions.
Dialogues, penned by Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani, are gems. They are real, they are weighty, they are terrific. The fun dialogues evoke laughter whereas the serious, dramatic and melodramatic ones create a huge impact.
Ranbir Kapoor lives the role of Sanjay Dutt. He gets the mannerisms of the real-life character right, the prosthetics and make-up make him look like Sanjay Dutt, and his acting is outstanding. An award-winning performance indeed by Ranbir Kapoor! It must be added here that it must not have been an easy task to play a living and in-demand actor. Special mention must be made of Ranbir’s replication of Sanjay Dutt’s gait, walking and talking style. Let it be said here that this film will mark a turning point in the career of the reservoir of talent that Ranbir Kapoor is! Paresh Rawal plays Sunil Dutt with a lot of conviction. He brings the stability needed in the character and the respect that’s due to the man and his image. Vicky Kaushal will be praised to the skies and even beyond, for playing Sanjay Dutt’s bosom pal, Kamlesh. This film will do for Vicky what ten films may not be able to do. Easily and definitely, every single, repeat, every single award for the best supporting actor this year would be reserved for Vicky Kaushal. He shines in light scenes and is mind-blowing in dramatic and emotional ones. No amount of praise is good enough for Vicky Kaushal’s acting. Dia Mirza is good as Maanayata Dutt. Anushka Sharma, in a special appearance, looks gorgeous and plays author Winnie Diaz with a lot of understanding. Sonam Kapoor is cute and leaves her mark as Ruby. In the role of Ruby’s father, Boman Irani (special appearance) is terrific. Mahru Shaikh has her moments as Ruby’s mother. Manisha Koirala, in a special appearance, is effective as Nargis Dutt. Jim Sarbh makes a mark in the role of Zubin Mistry alias God. Anjan Srivastav (special appearance) evokes laughter in the single scene in which he appears as the minister. Sayaji Shinde (special appearance) is lovely as underwrorld don Bandu Dada. Karishma Tanna, in a special appearance, is natural as Kamlesh’s girlfriend, Pinky. Mahesh Manjrekar is good as himself. Sanjay Dutt plays himself in the last (ending) song. He looks pretty handsome. Piyush Mishra (in a special appearance as D.N. Tripathi), Aditi Gautam (as Priya Dutt), Shivani Mahajan (as Namrata Dutt), Ashnoor Kaur (as young Priya Dutt), Kashish Vohra (as young Namrata Dutt), Sameer Kevin Roy (as Ruby’s NRI boyfriend), Jandre Le Roux (as the rehabilitation doctor), Karolin Etzel (as the rehab dance instructor), Pooja Nair and Shonita Joshi (both as airhostesses), Sahil C. Khosla (as Samir), Hemang Vyas (as Hanif), Prateek Rai (as Abu Salem), Asif Khan (as Yusuf), Deepak Rai (as the barber in the jail), Rajiv Kumar (as the politician), Hitesh Yogesh Dave (as the politician’s secretary), Tabu (as herself), Ashwin Mushran (as the event organiser) and the rest provide superb support.
Rajkumar Hirani is a magician more than a director! He narrates the complex story of a misdirected, ignorant and foolish young man with such sensitivity that the human drama becomes quite a masterpiece of a film. Full marks to him also for extracting such great work out of his cast. With this film too, Hirani keeps his unblemished record of a hit maker intact. Music (Rohan-Rohan, Vikram Montrose and A.R. Rahman) is alright. The absence of hit songs is felt. Nevertheless, the ‘Kar har maidan fateh’ is an inspirational number. Lyrics (Puneet Sharma, Shekhar Astitwa, Rohan Gokhale, Abhijat Joshi and Irshad Kamil) are appropriate. Song picturisations (by Ganesh Acharya; ‘Ruby Ruby’ by Stanley D’costa) are eye-pleasing. Background music (Sanjay Wandrekar and Atul Raninga) is fantastic. S. Ravi Varman’s cinematography, and additional cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee and Amit Roy, are exceptional. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are in synch with the film’s flavour. Shashank Tere’s production designing is superb. Clover Wootton’s prosthetics make-up deserves special mention. Rajkumar Hirani’s editing is razor-sharp.
On the whole, Sanju is a definite blockbuster. It will work wonders for Ranbir Kapoor and Vicky Kaushal in particular. It will also boost the image of Sanjay Dutt in the public eye, which will help in Dutt’s future career. It can easily cross the Rs. 250-crore mark in India. It shouldn’t be a surprise if it even joins the 300-crore club, making it one of the biggest blockbusters of Hindi cinema!! Its business in multiplexes will be HUGE.