Sanju, a film that pulled me in two directions

I have two separate ratings for this movie. Because I feel as though two Sanju movies were released. And to do justice to Ranbir Kapoor, I need to separate out his movie from Sanju Baba’s.

So there are these two movies – one is Sanju, a regular fiction film, starring Ranbir. It deserves a 4 stars rating…  I would say, don’t even read the review, just go watch the movie. The Kapoor lad is a powerhouse, especially in roles of these disturbed and desolate guys of the world. (quite like how Kangana essays the female ones).

The other movie is Sanju, the biopic. Sorry to disappoint you, but for me it was a biopic that was not quite. What’s more, it is a 2 stars attempt to hogwash the audience’s brains with errors of commission and omission. Confused? Read on…

Well, to put it bluntly, I think Sanju, the biopic is a clever PR initiative. A very good one too. It is in some ways a last ditch attempt to cleanse Sanju Baba’s image of the unworthy blemish of being branded a terrorist.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. That’s a stigma that no one worth his salt would want to die with.

But hey! If you are making a biopic, you cannot mix the real and fiction at will. You also cannot cherry pick the parts of his life that will eventually push just the central brief, to make him look innocent. If that’s the case, then don’t call the movie a biopic. Just hit the nail to the wall… call it, “I am Sanju and I am not a terrorist”, or something like that. We will still come and watch the film.

Of course, we understand that in a biopic or even a biography, it is very difficult to document an entire lifetime. But, the important milestones, especially the ones that the public already know about…we would have loved to see the how’s and why’s of those events, people, etc. You cannot pull wool over our eyes and pretend as if they never existed or never happened.

So, what does the biopic (pretentiously) cover and what does it (cleverly) leave out?

For starters, it covers the drug addiction phase of Sanju’s life. A tad too long, in the first half. How he had this friend Zubin, who got him into drugs and how he lost his childhood sweetheart (Ruby… did we know about this girl? We knew about dozens more, but no Ruby, did you?), how he peddled away the precious last moments with his dying mother, Nargis, his staggering career, his father’s trust, etc. all to drugs.  And then finally when realization strikes him that he is no more able to distinguish between the real and unreal worlds, he gets serious about de-addiction. Gets into a good rehab in the US and beats his addictions and wins back his health.

Then they show Sanju’s deep and lasting friendship with his Gujju friend Paresh Ghelani, who I don’t know how and why, if it is supposed to be a biopic, is called Kamlesh, a.k.a. Kamli in this ‘real’ portrayal of the ‘real’ Sanjay Dutt’s life.

And they show Maanyata, his current wife and how she stood by him during his worst periods when he was jailed and when he was being tried in the TADA court.

They show his relationship with his dad, Sunil Dutt, and must say, that’s the best part of the movie, one which is completely in sync with how it appeared to us on the outside.

Misunderstood and distant father and son duo in his drug addiction days. And the extremely supportive and forgiving father during his jail and court case days.

And finally they show all the drama that culminates into the dreadfully difficult period of his life, the days when they found him in possession with the deadly AK56 guns, and the TADA charges and his jail and sentencing. The horrible days he spent in solitary confinement, then the six years sentence in Yerwada, they are all deservedly poignant and moving and do make a point.

And then they have a villain to shove all the blame to. That’s the media. In no uncertain terms, the film wants us to believe that it’s the media and media alone who brought upon the ill fate on Sanju baba. By posing uncomfortable questions, the media docked the naughty, but innocent-as-a-child Baba in the guilty as charged category in the minds of people. And hence the image was here to stay.

Doesn’t matter, if Sanju baba did have guns in possession. Doesn’t matter if though he was not dangerous, he did have dangerous liaisons. Doesn’t matter if his camaraderie with the netherworlds went so deep that dreaded criminals like Abu Salem personally handed over those ‘toy’ guns to him. And that too, at a time when the city was burning. How innocent do you have to be to understand that such an association is not just criminal, it is outright anti-national.

Anyway, Sanjay Dutt did pay all his dues and suffered a lot of hardships and loss of face and friendships. But, how can he forget that it was this same media that celebrated him as Munnabhai MBBS. The same media forgot his earlier face and took him at his new face value.

Now, for things that were glibly cloaked or pushed under the carpet…

The most glaring one is his two marriages, one to Richa Sharma and the other to Rhea Pillai, who, if my memory serves right, stood upright with him the first time he went to jail. While director Raju Hirani explains that it is not possible to include all characters in Sanju’s life, his wives are not just anybody.

They were pivotal in his life. If his friendship with Kamli can be shown in such detail, surely the entry and exits of his two wives could have been ‘managed’ in the script.

And the other unpardonable omission is the existence (or absence) of his beautiful daughter Trishla. Especially, when he is shown with his twin son and daughter with Maanyata in quite a few scenes. This  makes Sanjay Dutt come across as an indifferent, insensitive father both in reel and real life.

Well, if his two wives were not even mentioned, expecting a mention of his umpteen number of lady loves would be asking for too much. Now here’s where they were clever. In some scene they got Sanju baba to confess to being a womanizer having bedded more than 300 women, not counting the prostitutes. So that’s it? What about the entry and exits of Tina Munim? Or Madhuri Dixit, with who he was planning to get married to. These and many other serious relationships were not even touched upon.

Understandably, personal lives of these heroines would be at stake, but Mr. Hirani has conveniently changed the avatars of so many real characters in the film, e.g. Sanju’s real life friend Paresh Ghelani and the ex-girlfriend Ruby, etc. he could have walked the bold path, changed personas and identity of these lady loves and showed us the real Sanju. That is, if this was really supposed to be a biopic and not just an image makeover.

We are not even made to understand just how was it that Sanju baba kept falling for bad company. So much so that, his underworld connections landed him in such deep troubles. And what about his filmography? Apart from mentioning his debut film Rocky and his comeback film Munnabhai, the film would have us believe that he was only about drugs and women and the underworld and media. There were so many landmark movies that certainly must have had an effect on his life’s going ons.

Like I remember, Khalnayak and his character in the film resonated so much with what was happening in his own personal life. After all Sanjay Dutt is a big Bollywood celebrity and hence his biopic. How can such an integral part of his life be rolled up like a smoke joint?

Enough said, let’s now dwell on the 4 star Sanju movie. The four stars are for:

Ranbir Kapoor and his portrayal of Sanjay Dutt. If we take away the incredible make up, still Ranbir looks, talks, behaves and reacts like Sanju baba. The swagger, the devil may care attitude, the droopy doped out eyes, the childish grin that makes us all believe in Sanjay Dutt’s innocence despite all the charges and convictions. You have to be one great actor to fuse your personality so completely and seamlessly into another living person.

Plus, add to that the emotional scenes, when he doesn’t get the chance to read the speech that he wrote for his dad, or the scenes when he was a druggie, the desperation, the abyss of self esteem he falls down to when he succumbs to temptation rather than being at the marriage registrar’s, where his sweetheart was waiting for him to turn up for marriage.

Sanju, oops, Ranbir carries the whole film on his slouched shoulders and gives it a very humane character.

The next star of the film is this coming out-of-the-woodworks, Vicky Kaushal. First, he stole our hearts in Raazi and now as Kamli, he has elevated the bond called friendship to a different level.

Some ‘inda’ he has to steal the show as this ‘faajil’ gujju bhai, whose only claim to fame in the world of manhood was seeing a naked 91 year old woman with a simple understated charm and sincerity. Especially remarkable is his drunken soliloquy in front of Sunil Dutt, when he is pleading with him to pay attention to his ignored ordinary son.

The next star is of course for Raju Hirani and Abhijat  Joshi for the awesome script, heart warming depiction of a fallen star and his eventual rise, immaculate direction and a smooth rendering of a living personality’s  life’s  journey.

The final star I give to the film and what it conveys. Sanju, is a film about chances. About falling down and rising up again. About imperfect lives. It shows us so beautifully, that everybody deserves a second chance in life. Even a third chance. Even a fourth and a fifth. As long as the law of the land has collected its dues from you, keep taking your chances. Live on and don’t quit.

Kyonki… Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna…

Btw… why do I feel there may be another PR biopic in the offing here… perhaps it will be titled, Sallu! 🙂



22 thoughts on “Sanju, a film that pulled me in two directions

Add yours

    1. You did a good right brain and left brain on this. I haven’t seen the movie yet but going by your views, yes even I would feel shortchanged if a biopic doesn’t serve it like it is. You have been fair already, and I will come back to disagree if at all after I watch the movie; which I am sure won’t be required going by your pro-audience perspective. You watch and tell us as passionately as the director himself—- you will find yourself on a lore authorized panel soon!!!


  1. Yet to c the movie , uncovered biopic well explained…Very well scripted K .That’s life of Sanju Baba Roller coaster One which is yet not complete or at rest from internal side! Which he only lives!


  2. I loved the movie……Ranbir is an actor of different league. And as in any story telling there is an antagonist, so i guess here it is the media.


  3. Hey Kavita.. That was a brilliant one as usual.. I will surely want to watch the movie for Ranbir.. I had seen the promo n fell in love with him.. He’s one of the best these days.


  4. Minutes things to catch n xplain fairly is remarkable job u did Kavi. Agree with fantastic act done by sweet kapoor and image cleaner director tried best to do so. U perfectly said keep aside Ranbir n keep the movie name I am sanju and I am not an terrorist 😂


  5. Hey Kavita.. I was waiting for your review on this movie specially. You have explained it so well, I could almost imagine the whole movie.
    I would want to watch it only for Ranbir’s acting.


  6. As always you seem to be so bang on. …
    Worth watching a movie for Ranbir kapoor who always does justice to his character….Will see it soon


  7. Don’t know about the movie …but the review is brilliant.
    Haven’t seen the movie but through your words i saw the movie and felt deeply about the missing elements esp Richa and Rhea. Brilliant analysis Kavita…Sanju’s life flashed in front of my eyes in your review.


  8. સુંદર આલેખન
    ઝકાસ અભિનય રણબીર કપૂર ૧૯૮૧ રોકી થી વર્તમાન સુધીનો કાબીલે તારીફ ગેટ અપ….


  9. Brilliant Kavi!!! You have really brought out the essence of the movie. Loved reading it. Unbiased review.


  10. Usually I watch the movie n then read your Reviews but am late this time… But now it’s more exciting to watch the movie after reading… Some where I was thinking this is an PR effort to clean his image….


  11. Not yet seen the move…but can actually visualise it thru he review…..brilliantly written… have managed to separate Sanju baba n Ranbir very cleverly vide he review.. ..good one Kavi….🖒


  12. An apt review. You reviewed it from the heart.
    The events that were ignored caught your attention too. You not only showered praises for Ranbir but also praised the others. You seem to have the knack to get to the core and evaluate the same.

    Good job kav.


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