A friend’s tribute

Daniyal Zahid thinks it is a story told very selectively, but a great entertainer overall

A friend’s tribute
Anyone in our neck of the woods who has some interest in Bollywood – an understatement for a large chunk of our populace – would at the very least have vague familiarity with the story of Sanjay Dutt. He has been an absolute superstar for three decade now, and parallel to that a controversial figure who more than just mingled with the criminal world.

Sanju is Rajkumar Hirani’s ostensible shot at sifting the latter from the former, and sharing the story of a human being that he evidently cherishes a lot. The film is not a biopic at all, but a tribute produced for a close friend.

In that regard, Hirani was always going to be a terrible choice to make a biopic on Sanjay Dutt, considering how close the two are. It is that friendship and bond that has prompted Hirani to make a film focusing on painting his buddy a certain way, by delineating certain aspects of him and narrating selected parts of his life.

His first two wives and daughter aren’t there in the film.

None of this, however, makes the film’s entertainment coefficient any less. Sanju is an absolute blockbuster, and an entertainer through and through.

What is undoubtedly the greatest strength of the movie, and arguably a new high for Bollywood itself, is Ranbir Kapoor’s performance.

What he puts on the screen, leaving absolutely nothing behind while doing so, is a rendition unseen in South Asian cinema thus far.

Not only would his depiction be remembered as one of the finest performances ever in Bollywood for years to come, he has managed to boomerang his box office fortunes – with a film that entered the 200 crore club within a week – all the while reminding everyone why Ranbir Kapoor remains one of the absolute finest actors of his generation.

Ranbir’s brilliance is not just in how he mimics Sanjay Dutt’s persona and the entire gamut of shades that the film chose to underline. It is also in the way he manages to keep the level high in the most trying of moments, when the depicted emotions – wide ranging at that – could have got the better of many.

For, Sanju, as one would have expected, is a dramatic affair with the ante being upped on the emotional coefficient as well. Because, at the end of the day, that was the intention behind making the film: moving the audience to a point where everyone ends up falling for the man, despite all his limitations and inclinations to make the most horrendous of mistakes.

That unfortunately is also where it loses the biopic tag, for Sanju can do no wrong in the film – even when he is blatantly doing so – and all his follies are conveniently attributed to an external source.

As part of the entertainer billing, the music is decent. AR Rahman, Rohan-Rohan and Vikram Montrose compliment whatever is taking place in the storyline with their compositions, which have been shot decently as well.

Touching on the story itself in this space would be counterproductive considering that this is Hirani’sHirani’s interpretation of Sanjay Dutt’s life. So revealing what shades he brought to the fore would technically be spoilers. That there can be spoilers in biopic, again, reaffirms that it should not be considered one.

While Sanju is a dream come true for Dutt’s fans who couldn’t care less about his vices or mistakes in his personal life – and indeed for the growing number of Ranbir Kapoor aficionados – the film, despite its skewed storyline, is a must watch for any Bollywood filmgoer.

It won’t tell you anything new about Sanjay Dutt’s life. But it will give you insights into the industry, and even more so about Dutt’s friendship with Hirani.

Most of all though, Sanju tells us more about Ranbir Kapoor – and his acting prowess – than it tells us about Sanjay Dutt.