Movie Review: Sanju – Average film with lame defense for a ‘king of bad choices’

You can now expect a Salman Khan biopic soon. Where Somy Ali, a husband beater, hires a black buck to kill Sallu. The black buck injures Sallu badly. Sohail Khan then takes him wounded to the hospital on a vegetable cart. A Mumbai pothole disbalances the cart and it accidentally knocks off six people on the footpath .. dead! The audience cheer, clap and shed tears for Salman. The film ends with Malaika Arora hiring the same black buck to trap Arbaaz in match fixing!

Sanju baba, the actor

Firstly, let me assure you, am a big fan of Sanjay Dutt the actor! Munnabhai series, Mission Kashmir scenes with Sonali Kulkarni, epic movies with Govinda & David Dhawan and even going back to Sadak, Hathyar (1989), Kabzaa, Dus, Naam, Kaante, Musafir, Aatish .. the guy is fabulous on screen. But that doesn’t mean I suspend my common sense to develop an understanding for his personal life problems… or repeatedly shed those fake tears Anushka Sharma’s global writer character keeps doing. I love Diego Maradona the footballer but hate how he is the worst role model off the field. Ditto for Md. Azharuddin. Both views can co-exist.

Balanced biopic or glorification?

When Ram Gopal Varma (arguably the best exponent of dark shades of life) made epics like Satya, Company and Veerappan, there was no glorification of the protagonist’s circumstances. Satya, Malik Bhai (Devgun in Company) or Veerappan were devils who deserved death or capital punishment. If anything, Varma spent more frames showcasing the authorities frustration and challenges in breaking through the antagonists’ well-established networks. Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday never justifies Tiger Menon’s plight during the 1991 riots either – by the way, Sanju uses Black Friday shots for Mumbai blast scenes. The movie is shot from the crime branch’s (Kay Kay Menon’s) investigation perspective. When you watch these epics, you shudder at how many sleepless nights and sacrifices the cops go through to nab killers.

Media to blame?

Perhaps, instead of blaming the media for anything and everything, the film should have invested on how strong the evidences were, that the cops managed to land at the doorsteps of a renowned politician and his superstar son? Why the (much maligned) media never put a black dot on Sunil Dutt or Priya Dutt but always haunted Sanju? When every popular actor danced at underworld functions or acted in their funded movies, why was Dutt only singled out? Obviously, there is more to than what meets the eye. The movie stays clear of the grey areas and just keeps repainting the white areas! Poor boy – took drugs for inability to meet dad’s expectations – who is coincidentally shown (the entire 161 mins) as an extremely supportive and forgiving father!

Island Bollywood

This is precisely why you need friends like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani (ace filmmakers), the two powerful Kapoor families .. et all to help clean your image. Born with a silver spoon, in the middle of island Bollywood, protected by industry and governments, son of a powerful politician, Sanjay Dutt’s story has masala for ticket sales but no justification for his ills. The chances of your drug addict, womaniser or underworld connected son making it big in life is negligible. This is not an inspiring MS Dhoni: The untold story, Dangal or Mary Kom biopic. This is a coming together of the film industry to euthanise your mind, senses and logical thinking and make money off the emotional and vulnerable half of your brain. Dutt, despite his irritating habits stays the victim. While villains are all and sundry – Writers comparing him to ‘Bapu’, a caricature drug peddler friend, media personnel abusing him, media sensationalism, father’s expectations, girlfriend’s marriage and even mother’s death – are all reasons for him to get back to powder. Seriously, would Dutt have had any career if not for his birth on ‘Island Bollywood’?

Playing the victim card?

Every publication reviewer has rated Sanju as an excellent product. After all, no one would like to offend any of the five big filmy camps involved – Kapoor khandaan (Ranbir), Kapoor khandaan (Sonam), Chopras, Hiranis, Dutts and their close buddy Salman Khan. There was/is a massive public relations machinery (in the garb of how Ranbir is looking great/performed excellently) urging audiences to see Dutt’s side of the story. That his addiction was due to loneliness! That he begged on the streets of America, was ready to walk hundreds of kilometres in the chill, contemplated suicide multiple times, lost his parents at key junctures, that his arms dealing with ’93 Mumbai blasts culprits was minor and media made a big deal, etc.

Hirani’s weakest film

Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra have given us many movies which one never gets bored of seeing even re-runs on television. They are a ‘quality assured’ bunch of moviemakers. Having sucked the audience into visiting the intriguing life of their favourite film star, a nice web of circumstances and victimisation is woven around the plot. However, this has to be Hirani’s weakest movie. At no point do you feel for any of the characters and aside a few chuckles, it isn’t fun ride either. Putting a toilet seat on a girlfriend’s neck can never be. You are there only for the masala and hoping to see more of the unknown. Dutt’s first two troubled marriages and fractious relationship with Priya Dutt stay unknown. It’s possible his strained relationship influenced the makers to reduce Priya to a mute character. And honestly in a land where politicians get all luxuries inside a jail, its hard to believe Dutt was staying in a windowless cell with excrete flowing out. Perhaps the climax jail monologue is a good advertisement for why this movie was made – a platform for Dutt to peddle out his innocence! Lame.

Sanju the movie

Sanju’s only positives are Ranbir’s extremely sincere act, excellent work done by the makeup artists, fantastic Vicky Kaushal in few first-half scenes, nice peak at Karishma Tanna’s cleavage and Paresh Rawal in select scenes. Suspend your belief otherwise. If your kid is into drugs, womanizing, laundering money or dealing with terror mongers, don’t sympathise nor keep any hopes for him. Jail will be his final destination. No one will sing the national anthem before, nor salute him after, paying for his biopic! Unless if he was born in island Bollywood.

Rating: 2.5/5 (averaged with friends)

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