Master story teller Rajkumar Hirani does his magic on screen yet again with Sanju. A powerful, moving and compelling movie, it depicts the fascinating, controversial and dramatic of ‘80s superstar Sanjay Dutt.
Sanju begins with Sanjay Dutt (played by Bollywood heart-throb Ranbir Kapoor) looking for a writer to pen his biography, as he prepares to surrender following a Supreme Court’ decision related to his possession of a firearm.
After one writer fails him, Dutt goes to an established biographer, Winnie (Anushka Sharma), with hopes of sharing his side of the story. It is during these meetings we get to visit Dutt’s past and understand him beyond biased media coverage. We get deep insights and honest recollections from the man who lived life in all its highs and lows.
Director Rajkumar Hirani takes us on an emotional journey through various stages of Dutt’s life. From the early days of his first movie Rocky, when a young and nervous Dutt was crushed by the pressures of his illustrious family, to getting into a vicious cycle of drug and alcohol addiction while dealing with the loss of his mother, it continues to his subsequent time in rehab. Followed by his notorious trials and tribulations in the Arms Act case, and his alleged involvement in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, the film takes you through Dutt’s tumultuous life. The deep emotions, which Hirani is an expert at bringing out, keep us drawn to the screen and leave us wanting more.
Rajkumar Hirani made it clear that although this is a biopic of sorts, he has taken creative liberty, with permission from Dutt himself, to portray specific chapters of Dutt’s life the way he wanted. Those criticising the movie for leaving out key pieces of Dutt’s life, like his previous marriages and the birth of his first child, must remember this is his version of the story.
The first half of the movie revolves around Dutt’s struggle with drug addiction. The scenes where Dutt is completely out of his senses are cleverly executed: colorful, vivid, animated and loopy. Although dramatised, the scenes perfectly deliver the essence of how addiction takes control of one’s mind, without overdoing it. The second half deals with Dutt’s odyssey of court cases related to his alleged link with underworld dons.
Besides the drama and controversy, what holds the story together is the relationship between fathers, son and best friend. The father and friend are his moral anchors throughout.
Veteran actor Paresh Rawal plays Sunil Dutt (Sanjay’s father) brilliantly. His role of a supportive and loving father, quietly suffering the responsibility of looking after a troubled son, is performed with intense earnestness. Some of the most heart-wrenching scenes are the ones between the two.
Following a solid performance as a Pakistani soldier in Meghna Gulzaar’s 2018 spy thriller Raazi, Vicky Kaushal’s stellar performance as Sanjay Dutt’s friend Kamlesh keeps us transfixed. Playing a simple and stable New York-based Gujarati man, a rock-solid support to Dutt, the relative newcomer in the film industry has made it clear he has a future in the industry.
Ranbir Kapoor’s portrayal of Dutt is completely convincing as he brilliantly embodies his character’s persona.
His transformation to to fit the role of Bollywood’s original ‘bad boy’ is commendable.
Depicting Dutt’s life story — complex, turbulent and full of extremes — is not an easy task. Countless speculation, allegations, controversies and tragedies have been dealt with sensitively by Hirani, making this human story a skillfully crafted work of art.