He may not have been an ideal son, an outstanding actor, a super husband or a caring father but as Ranbir Kapoor points out in the theatrical trailer, ‘he leads a life full of variety.’ The film Sanju glorifies that ‘variety wala life’ and makes it a full-fledged film that shows the true face of Sanjay Dutt, the Bollywood actor who was in dire need of a good PR after returning from prison and trying hard to resume his career as an actor. Ranbir Kapoor does his best to portray Sanjay Dutt and gets help from his co-actors in coming up with what would turn out to be the ‘film of the year’.
Sanju (Ranbir Kapoor) is looking for a biographer for his book a few days before being sent to jail to resume his sentence; his wife (Dia Mirza) makes him meet Winnie (Anushka Sharma) who agrees to do so despite initial reluctance. When she gets to hear the actor’s point of view, she decides to investigate and finds out that Sanjay was basically a kid who made mistakes and paid for them. What were the mistakes he made, who helped him get out of the messes he created and who was responsible for sending him into the mess, that’s what the film is all about.
Ranbir Kapoor is not just first-rate in the film, he looks more like Sanju than Sanjay Dutt would have if you get the drift. Except for one scene, it is Sanjay Dutt you see onscreen and not Ranbir Kapoor which is what makes this film worth a second viewing. The way he walks, talks and even dances reminds you of the way Sanjay Dutt was during his early years. The film’s parallel lead is Paresh Rawal who plays Sunil Dutt and gives a perfect ten performance be it as a middle-aged father or an old one, a politician in power or a social worker who wants to help the poor. The scenes where he consoles his son, where he takes the lead because he was a bigger star and where he was shown worrying for his son are masterpieces and no other actor in India would have been able to do that but Paresh Rawal. Vicky Kaushal’s Kamli is the biggest surprise of the film as he takes on Sanju’s character when he is on drugs, when he is in jail or when he needs him to convince his girlfriend. I must say I was least happy with his casting but with his performance, he has won me over. Guest appearances by Manisha Koirala and Anushka Sharma are as important to the film as Dia Mirza’s role as Sanjay’s wife and pillar of strength. Rajkumar Hirani’s direction and Abhijat Joshi’s screenplay along with Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s input makes this film a modern-day classic that shouldn’t be missed.
The film is more fictitious than real because there are many things such as his 3 marriages, his eldest daughter, his friends and well-wishers, his affairs and above all, his films weren’t discussed at all. It is also shown that whatever wrong he did, was a fault of others which doesn’t look good because Sanjay was a man when he first got into trouble and instead of getting out, he went further down before being rescued for the first time. Also, a couple of songs from his illustrious career would have helped a film that hardly had any song except for a couple in the background and one motivational one. Jim Sarbh must be cast in a normal role because every character of his seems over the top and one-dimensional, be it the one in Padmaavat or here in Sanju. Although the film’s pace is near-perfect, the total runtime could have been trimmed by 20 minutes to give it a believable feeling.
The Verdict 4.5/5
Sanju should not be taken as a definitive biography because it is not that; take it as a fictitious trip into the world of the man behind Munnabhai’s character and you will see how his character has transformed from a rich brat to a man who wants to emulate his own father. The film is one of the best produced this year in Bollywood and could provide the blueprint for more biographies to come. It is also Ranbir Kapoor’s best performance considering his choice of films has been more disappointing than the films’ box office return. It also proves that no matter what others say, the film will turn out to be a blockbuster, if the content is strong. Do keep a water bottle and a tissue with you because Sanju’s biopic has more emotions and fewer punches and that in itself is a compliment for a man who plays gun-slinging characters that fight more and speak less.