‘Sanju’: A Rollercoaster of Emotions Delivered Masterfully

Friday, June 29 2018

‘Sanju’: A Rollercoaster of Emotions Delivered Masterfully

Reblog View photos If you’ve seen the Munna Bhai films, 3 Idiots and PK , you’ll know that writer and director Rajkumar Hirani is a master of human emotions. He tells stories with complex characters, packed with emotion and bold insight on social issues, be it our flawed education system or the pitfalls of organised religion. In one cinematic experience, Hirani seamlessly makes you laugh, cry and see an issue with a totally different perspective, all at the same time. Sanju is no different. The film delivers a rollercoaster of emotions through the mighty highs and abysmal lows in the colourful life of actor Sanjay Dutt. The biopic focuses primarily on two aspects of Sanjay’s life: his tryst with drug addiction as a youth, and his alleged involvement in the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai, each addressed in the first and second half respectively. While this risks turning mechanical and predictable, Hirani uses biographer Vinnie Diaz (Anushka Sharma) as a medium to tell the story, as she hears parts of it from Sanjay himself and others from his best friend, Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal). This style works effectively in guiding us through Sanjay’s life, while keeping us engaged. What really makes Sanju special is Hirani’s treatment of the narrative. The characters are superbly complex, their relationships profoundly explored and (most of) their roles powerfully played. Ranbir Kapoor obviously does a spectacular job of playing Sanjay. He completely sheds his own identity and morphs into that of the character, imbibing even the tiniest of mannerisms, while steering clear of mimicry throughout. In fact, he poignantly portrays Sanjay’s grief during his struggles with emotional depth and flair. What is even more remarkable is the long age span that Ranbir covers, right from Sanjay’s troubled twenties, to the actor past his middle-age. View photos Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt in a still from Sanju . More But if Ranbir is the heart of the film, the ensemble cast forms the arteries and veins that really keep the film alive. Vicky Kaushal is earnest and endearing as usual, playing Kamlesh, Sanjay’s best friend who does not talk to him for 20 years as he doubts his innocence in the Mumbai bomb blasts case. It is through Vicky’s character that the film most effectively explores the dangers of misconceptions and misunderstandings in the way we represent and view people, which is one of its main messages. Sanjay’s relationship with his parents is equally, if not more, compelling. Manisha Koirala does a fine job playing the ailing yet infinitely positive and affectionate Nargis Dutt. Even after she passes away, she manages to make you cry and affect you. To avoid spoilers, let me just say that if you enjoyed listening to Kar har maidan fateh... , you will not be disappointed by how it’s used in the film. View photos Manisha Koirala plays the role of Nargis Dutt. More As for Sanjay’s father, Sunil Dutt, Paresh Rawal patiently delivers this role, remaining a pillar of support in Sanjay’s life throughout the film. He stands by his son through thick and thin, and bears most of the brunt of Sanjay’s image as a terrorist. His perseverance and unending support for his troubled son is most touching. Essentially, complex human relationships are the soul of the film, and the actors deliver the emotion perfectly. If there is anything one can complain about, it is that the film has a very clear purpose, maybe too clear: to show just how messed up and complicated Sanjay’s life has been, while emphasising that he is not a malicious person, or a terrorist. In this sense, Sanju can be seen as a wholehearted defense of the controversial actor. Despite being hugely privileged and spoilt, Sanjay is somehow the victim in every aspect of the story, right from his drug-dealer friend manipulating him into taking drugs, to the fear of death threats, and finally a ridiculously irresponsible, biased and even conniving media. It is almost as though he is not personally responsible or accountable for any of the problems in his life, which is a bit unrealistic and perhaps too one-sided Moreover, due to how fixed and simple this agenda was, the plot can be seen as predictable as it somewhat mechanically lends itself to meeting this agenda. This overt emphasis on countering perceptions of Sanjay as a terrorist also led to other significant aspects of his life being ignored. What about the other women in his life? Not all 308, but at least his other two wives, his daughter and his sisters, who were obviously crucial elements in his life. But at the end of the day, a biopic is not necessarily meant to be a comprehensive or objective account of a person’s life. It does have scope for one’s individual perspective, which Hirani definitely exploits, taking full advantage of such liberties to tell the story of Sanjay’s life specifically from his point of view. And he does so effectively and with panache. You don’t really question the bias, as the film distracts you with outstanding performances and astute writing, keeping you consistently engaged and emotionally connected to the protagonist. As usual, Hirani works as a puppet master, making you oscillate between laughing, crying and often, both at the same time. (Kaashif is a student at New York University, passionate about politics, literature and films. He is an aspiring journalist and filmmaker, currently writing / interning for The Quint )