Sanju is the story of Sanjay Dutt, Bollywood superstar, acclaimed actor, convicted criminal, son of the screen legend Nargis and the much-respected actor-activist-politician Sunil Dutt. The film skips Dutt Jrs childhood and takes us through his work on his debut film, his mothers illness, his rocky relationship with his father, his alcoholism and drug addiction, the allegations of involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, his arrest under the draconian and now lapsed TADA, the acquittal on terror charges and conviction under the Arms Act, his jailing and ultimate release. The object of the film is two-fold: to project Dutt as a misguided but well-intentioned man and all-round nice guy, and to scapegoat others for his failings. So yes, he was not committed to his work, but cmon, what is bechara Baba to do when he is under so much strain to match his fathers greatness? So yes, he took drugs and alcohol that was not okay, but cmon, can you really blame Baba when his work stresses and personal traumas were compounded by that evil drug dealer who tricked him into addiction? Yes, he bought firearms, but did we not tell you it was because of his desire to protect his father and sisters, as any good Indian mard should? And yes of course slept with hundreds of women and treated them lightly, but that is so funny and so cute, na?
The most well- strategized choice of scapegoat is the media, which is skewered in the closing song featuring Ranbir Kapoor and the real Sanjay Dutt himself. For everything wrong that Baba has done, the buck stops at the door of the lying press, according to the lyrics of Baba bolta hain bas ho gaya. This is a stroke of propagandist genius, because vast sections of the Indian media are so disgraceful that it is tempting to cheer when a finger is pointed at them for anything, even if our disgust for media sensationalism is being used to quietly influence us into viewing a movie stars misdemeanours, vices, crimes and contemptible qualities with fondness.
Other facets of Dutt that are conveniently papered over include his difficult relationship with his siblings Priya and Namrata are marginal, virtually dialogue less characters in Sanju and his misogynistic, patriarchal mindset.
No doubt with the goal of painting this portrait of virtue, his first marriage to Richa Sharma, who died of cancer, is completely ignored. His second marriage finds no mention either. Manyata Dutt, on the other hand, is presented as his only pillar of strength once his father is gone and his best buddy leaves him. How unfortunate that this should come from Hirani, creator of the brilliant Munnabhai films (both starring Dutt), in addition to 3 Idiots and PK, which, whatever their flaws may have been, had very relevant points to make.
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal, Dia Mirza
Movie rating: 3