Ranbir shines as Dutt, but Paresh Rawal and Vicky Kaushal steal the show
Since the biopic on the life of Sanjay Dutt was announced, curiosity grew far and wide, as to what director Rajkumar Hirani has to offer. As a dialogue from the movie suggests, whose life consists of such variety? After all, Dutt’s life and career have been marred with controversies ever since his debut in 1981’s ‘Rocky’. Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi are tasked with recreating noted chapters from Dutt’s life and retelling them. That they manage to do it seamlessly without a single dull moment makes ‘Sanju’, one of the best biopics to have come out from Hindi cinema, in a while.
Sanju (Ranbir Kapoor) is all set to make his cinematic debut in ‘Rocky’. Coming from a family of cinema legends including father Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) and mother Nargis (Manisha Koirala), Sanju’s tryst with troubles begin following an upset episode with his father while shooting on-set. He is introduced to an assortment of substances by a friend Zubin Mistry (Jim Sarbh). Post hangover, Sanju is confronted with the truth that his mother is suffering from pancreatic cancer. When she is taken to New York for treatment, Sanju meets and befriends Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi aka Kamli (Vicky Kaushal). Sanju’s addiction sours his relationship with Ruby (Sonam Kapoor) and his mother passes away, three days before the release of his debut film. Sanju goes to rehab in the USA and returns stronger, only to have bigger troubles awaiting him. He is arrested on charges of illegal possession of arms and being complicit to the accused of the serial blasts that rocked Mumbai in 1993. How the possibility of being labelled a terrorist looms over, forms the rest of the film.
Now, it’s not an easy task to tell an uncomfortable tale, but Hirani and Joshi deploy humour and drama to develop a tight screenplay that keeps viewers invested throughout. Most biopics are accused of glorifying characters that they are based upon. That’s where one must applaud Hirani for not treating Dutt as an actor, but as a human being who has made mistakes and has his regrets. The film vividly highlights Dutt’s personal highs and lows and refrains from giving us details about his professional journey. Like all of Hirani’s films, ‘Sanju’ also offers a much-needed, scathing commentary on the journalistic ethics followed by the Indian media.
Technically, the film’s biggest strength lies in the make-up department. Vikram Gaikwad and prosthetics pro Clover Wootton make Ranbir look like Dutt across his lifespan. S. Ravi Varman’s lenses capture Mumbai and New York’s scenic beauty while also giving us haunting inside-views of the Yerwada Jail in Pune. Bishwadeep Chatterjee highlights the proceedings with his able sound design. Not much can be spoken about the film’s music, but ‘Kar Har Maidaan Fateh’ stays on with the viewer.
Coming to the cast, ‘Sanju’ is easily Ranbir’s most impactful performance, till date. The actor gets Dutt’s body language and mannerisms right, without reducing himself to a caricature. He is brilliantly supported by Rawal, who leaves you remembering the late Sunil Dutt fondly, the man who was immensely loved and respected as an actor and a politician. Vicky is a revelation as Kamli and this film should have directors lining up for him. Some of the film’s best scenes featuring these three actors will leave you laughing and crying. Koirala is charming as the eternal beauty Nargis was. Anushka Sharma stars as author Winnie Dias, who decides to document Dutt’s story. It’s surprising how she is credited as a special appearance considering that she has more scenes than Sonam Kapoor does. Sonam’s performance as Ruby is comical and provides some unintentional laughs. Jim makes Zubin Mistry look like the worst friend possible. Dia Mirza is radiant as Maanyata, though saddled with a small role. Do not miss out on the brief cameo by our Radio City RJ Archanaa Pania.
If you are a fan of Raju Hirani’s films, then ‘Sanju’ is worth your watch. Go on, flood those ticket windows. Just do not forget to carry some tissues along, though.