There’s a popular scene in Sholay, which is based on an actual incident in the lives of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, back in their ‘Salim-Javed’ days, where Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) visits Basanti (Hema Malini)’s Mausi (Leela Mishra) with a marriage proposal of his best friend, Veeru (Dharmendra). Jai lists down all the vices of his friend Veeru but sugarcoats each vice with something positive, leading to a worse vice in the next line.
This scene sums up Rajkumar Hirani’s latest offering, Sanju. Just like Jai, the director insists upon Sanjay Dutt being a man with heart of gold and blames the world for everything ‘wrong’ about his ‘Baba’. If the entire 2 odd hours weren’t enough, he goes to feature Sanjay Dutt along with Ranbir Kapoor, crooning ‘Baba bolta hai ab bas ho gaya’.
Not a benchmark to compare here, but Mani Rathnam’s ‘Guru; (Never claimed to be an official biography of a certain industrialist anyway) had a character of Madhavan, who reflected the dark side of Gurukant Desai. Here we have Baba’s friend, Kamli, who comes across more of ‘Circuit’, rather than someone who makes Baba realise that he’s on a wrong track.
Sanju, right from its opening scene to the credits, is easily the best PR-friendly biopic we’ve ever seen. Baba got into drugs. Blame a drug peddler. Baba gets into AK 56 trouble. Blame the underworld. On a lighter vein, even if Baba sleeps with his friend’s girlfriend, just like the writer and director, Baba blames it on the girl instead. The world can go astray, but Baba can’t go wrong saala.
A biopic, by its inherent nature, is supposed to document its subject’s good, bad, ugly side. Well, expecting a ‘Wolf of Wallstreet’ in India would be too much to ask, but the worst part is you don’t even get an ‘MS Dhoni’ here. The much-touted ‘308 nahin safety ke liye 350’ women in Sanjay Dutt’s life are royally ignored.
We aren’t looking for a song with montage of 308 women, but would expect the story of his wife, Rhea Pillai or Richa Sharma and her daughter Trishala. If not the women in his life, why was the character of Priya Dutt given just one word, ‘Bhaiya’ in the name of dialogue? Welcome to Rajkumar Hirani’s world, where women exist just to make the hero look like a hero or give way to apparently ‘harmless’ sexual innuendos, be it the ‘Sttann’ or ‘Balaatkaar’ scene in 3 Idiots, or ‘Lagaane ke liye chahiye’ in Sanju.
So, we have Anushka Sharma here, world’s ‘top biographer’, who is literally chased by the star, Sanjay Dutt to get his biography written. Really? In the wake of arrests and allegations, would Sanjay Dutt need a biography to tell his side of story? Would the court, janta and media wallas change their perception if they were to read his biography?
Guess what the ‘top biographer’ does as part of her research? Spend time with the star, read up everything ever written about him, meet up women who were in relationship with him, people who have known him since childhood, relatives, friends, producers and directors? Wrong. This stylishly dressed and clownishly haired lady chooses to fly from one country to another just after talking to two people in the star’s life. Seems like writer Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani did the same kind of research while writing Sanju.
Among the actors, Ranbir Kapoor literally transforms into Sanjay Dutt. This is indeed a tough feat to pull off for every actor worth his salt, where the actor completely disappears into his character. In few scenes, especially towards the film’s end, you’d be tempted to look closely if it was the real Dutt. Finally, Ranbir got his due as an actor.
If Ranbir is one extreme of perfect casting, Paresh Rawal is the other extreme of miscast. The veteran struggles to pass off as Sunil Dutt. The benign look of Sunil Dutt isn’t something that can be achieved through wigs, makeup or rehearsed mannerisms. Heck, even the ‘Ustaads’ i.e. lyricists of yesteryears, too, couldn’t make Paresh Rawal believable.
After Ranbir Kapoor, if any actor shines out, it’s Vicky Kaushal as the endearing Kamlesh aka Kamli. It’s a character who will remain etched in your memory long after you leave the auditorium. After Masaan, Raman Raghav 2.0, Raazi and the recent Karan Johar short from Lust Stories, Vicky Kaushal never fails to surprise you. Alas, it’s the film that disappoints here.
Coming back to the Sholay scene of Jai and Mausi, by the end of the scene, Mausi concludes, “Ek baat ki daad doongi beta. Bhale sau buraayiyaan hai tumhare dost mein, phir bhi tumhare munh se us ke liye taareefein hi nikalti hai.” That’s exactly how the ‘mausi’ of audience would feel for Rajkumar Hirani, reminiscent of a poignant scene from Sanju, where the Yerwada Jail Radio plays, ‘Tere jaisa yaar kahaan, kahaan aisa yaarana’. So, what’s next after this PR film that screams, ‘My name is Sanjay Dutt and I am not a terrorist’? Is it ‘Bhai and blackbucks? perhaps titled as ‘Sallu’? Go figure.