Sanju, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, is one of the most anticipated films of 2018. It hit theatres on 29th June and by the time I saw it on 30th June, the film had already collected over 34 crores at the box office. This is the biggest opening of Ranbir's career and he really needed this. Alas! if only collections could measure the strength of a film. Ranbir's biggest opening before this was Besharam, and it was horrible. Thankfully, Sanju is not a bad film, but it is far from Rajkumar Hirani's best. Very-very far.
The film has been marketed as a biographical film, on the life of controversial actor Sanjay Dutt. After watching the film I can safely say that it is nowhere close to that. In fact, the film covers only a few incidents of his life, maybe the ones that he wanted the world to see the most. There is more than one problem I have with the writing of the film. The focus of the film is just on 3 characters. Sanju played by Ranbir Kapoor, his dad Sunil Dutt played by Paresh Rawal and his best friend nicknamed Kamli, played by Vicky Kaushal. It is good to have focus, but what about his relationship with his mother Nargis (Manisha Koirala) or his wife?
I understand that Hirani picked the stories and characters that he really wanted to put up on screen, but you cannot pick a cricket team with 11 batsmen. Even if the batsmen are world-class, who is going to bowl?
I would have at least liked to see his relationship with his current wife, Manyata Dutt (Dia Mirza). On one hand, she is just an observer, who participates only when Sanju can't because he is in jail. On the other, she is shown as this self-assured woman who is listening to her husband count the no. of females he has slept with, never batting an eyelid. What makes her stand like a rock behind this man? We don't get to know because she gets to do nothing in the film.
Another problem with the writing is the sudden immaturity that creeps into the film, on the pretext of comic relief. Rajkumar Hirani is a genius, no denying that. We have had 3 of the best modern-day comedies coming from him, Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai and 3 Idiots. Hell, even PK, which was not a spectacular film, had some hilarious scenes. However, in Sanju, it just doesn't work. Also because forced humour should not have been there in the first place.
Why could Sanju not just be an emotional, moving drama? Instead, there are scenes that just don't add anything to the story and instead, break the mood, by the sheer immaturity of writing. The opening scene featuring Piyush Mishra and the scene where Sanju and Kamli meet a politician are easy examples that come to mind. If I try to be critical, even the scene where Sanju goes to his girlfriend's place to get alcohol is very juvenile. The bad scenes standout because we do get to see some exemplary writing as well. The scene in Kamli's house with the audio tape of Nargis is fantastic.
The scene between a drunk Kamli and Sunil Dutt is magic for which we go to the cinema. It is my most favourite scene from the film and goes into my all-time list.
One more thing that holds the film back is the music. The music of the film has no heart. And a film like this really needed heart, a big one. 'Kar Har Maidan Fateh' has Sukhwinder Singh doing his best to evoke feelings of passion and vigour, which works to an extent. Beyond that, there is nothing. The film gets no support from music to enhance the emotional experience.
My mind goes back to 'Jaane Nahin Denge Tujhe', and the cheeky parody 'Zoobie Doobie' from 3 Idiots or 'Bande Mein Tha Dum' and 'Subha Ho Gayi Mamu' from the Munnabhai Series. Sadly, Sanju is a complete dud in the music department.
In spite of the shortcomings, Sanju is a good film. That's because the storytelling has enough juice and the film puts up fantastic actors who successfully enhance the storytelling further. The key message Hirani and team want audiences to take away is 'don't believe every news you read' and don't make judgements based on that. This portion of the film (late second half) is crisp and hits the point. Newspapers, magazines and websites write half-baked puff pieces. They often sensationalize news by hiding behind things like 'question marks' and 'according to our sources'. All this is done to garner readership and earn more moolah by way of advertisements. They don't care what it does to the life of the individual, even though they are altering the facts of his life and putting them up for the world to see.
Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt does an incredible job. He physically transforms himself, multiple times, to portray a different time in Jr. Dutt's life. He even gets the little mannerisms and peculiarities spot on. And his portrayal is so pure and sincere. It never borders on mimicry and caricature. Hence, Ranbir Kapoor is very much visible, deep down, along side his Sanju Baba. Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt is spectacular. It was a challenging role and he puts in one of his finest performances, compelling us to remember and laud the great Sunil Dutt. The scene where Paresh Rawal and Ranbir Kapoor sing in sync is iconic.
My favourite, however, is Vicky Kaushal. He lifts every scene he is in and that is commendable when you have Ranbir and Paresh Rawal alongside.
I was mesmerized when I saw him in Masaan (2015) 3 years ago, but I never took him to be so versatile. Since then he has given us Raman Raghav, Love Per Square Feet (Netflix), Raazi, and Lust Stories (Netflix). In Sanju, some of the most memorable moments feature Vicky Kaushal. Be it the scene with Paresh Rawal I already talked about, his hospital scene with Sanju handcuffed to the bed or his scene with Sonam Kapoor. In my opinion, Vicky Kaushal's portrayal is what gives Sanju the extra punch it needed.
Sanju is definitely worth a watch. No doubt, you will question many things and find a considerable amount of detail missing. But then, it is not really that kind of a film. I am not saying Hindi films cannot be detail oriented, I am saying this one isn't. It is a film that is high on emotion. The emotion of a father looking out for his son and the emotion of unpretentious friendship. Watch it for the 3 lead actors and the magical moments they create on screen. If you do go for it, do yourself a favour and watch as a film about some guy named Sanju, rather than the actor Sanjay Dutt.