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Film Review: Sanju biopic comes alive on screen

Film Review: Sanju-One Man, Many Lives

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt, Dia Mirza as Manyatta Dutt, Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt, Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt, Aditi Seiya as Priya Dutt, Vicky Kaushal as Kamlesh Kapasi, Jim Sarbh, Anushka Sharma as Winnie Dias, Sonam Kapoor as Ruby, Karishma Tanna, Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Dutt (in the song, ‘Baba Bolta Hai’).

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Rating: Four stars

The decade was the 90s when the angry young man and reigning King, Amitabh Bachchan, after delivering two stupendous hits at the box office, Hum and Khuda Gawah announced a five-year-hiatus away from the Arclight. The film industry was looking at his worthy successor and at that time, a young man with the charm, deadly looks and a combination of childlike vulnerability and fire in the eyes delivered two back to back super hits, Saajan and Sadak. The worthy successor for Bachchan was found. It was Sanjay Dutt who looked set to take the Number One seat from Bachchan and the latter himself shared his Best Actor Award with the young Dutt by calling him on stage saying the young star deserves the award for Saajan. It was a matter of days for the young Sanju Baba to wear the undisputed crown till the Bombay 93 blast happened that led to his immediate arrest while getting down the plane at Sahar airport. Perhaps, the coveted No 1 position wouldn’t be the same and the triumvirate Khans destiny would have significantly altered.

The trouble for Sanjay Dutt has just begun when he was tried under TADA but you know the story right for he bounced back time and again, right from drugs to all kind of allegations leveled against him. This story truly deserves a biopic for Dutt, the original ‘bad boy’ is a mystery to many of us. There is a story that many of us don’t know but pretend to, thinking we are the Supreme Court, by brandishing all kind of allegations against not just Dutt but his entire family who bore the brunt. In 2007, the judge himself observed in his judgment that Sanjay Dutt is not a terrorist but procured arms in an illegal manner from the underworld that went undeclared. He was young, ruthless and reckless who didn’t use his brain. But, he served his sentence and such an eyesore to see people brandishing him as a terrorist since the film Sanju was released. For haters, at that time, Dutt Saab (Sunil Dutt) was touted to become the next CM of Maharashtra and the arrest of Sanju was a trump card that fell into the lap of political rivals.

Back to the film. It’s never an easy task to make a biopic on the life of the Greek God of the 90s and one must commend the courage of Rajkumar Hirani to explore the life of Sanjay Dutt, that evokes love, admiration and hate in equal measure. It’s a mammoth task at hand and even more for Ranbir Kapoor to essay this role, one of his most challenging till date as an actor, stepping into the shoes of someone with the Dutt’s caliber. There are very few actors who would take this risk at this stage of their career, to the exception of Shah Rukh Khan essaying negative roles in the early 90s, and Ranbir Kapoor’s gamble has paid extremely well in essaying Sanju. The body language, voice intonation, Baba’s inimitable style, easy demeanor, long hair that became Dutt’s brand and effortless yet down-to-earth personality is incarnated to the hilt by Ranbir Kapoor. There is not a single moment where one would see Ranbir Kapoor but Sanjay Dutt.

Of course, the prosthetics bearing the mark of Cloover Wootton makes the impression superbly believable but it’s only an incredible actor that can combine the looks, body language, expressions and effortless gaze to deliver in such a magical manner. Ranbir Kapoor is the soul of Sanjay Dutt that he carries through the pathos and emotions that make it incredibly believable. Kapoor deserves all the awards this year and should bag the national award. He is Dutt in almost all aspects for flitting so effortlessly in this role and with utmost ease. Till date, it’s the Kapoor scion most accomplished work and shows what a wondrous actor he is.

One of the major points where the film scores are the father-son bonding between Sanju Sir and Dutt Saab portrayed on screen by Kapoor and Paresh Rawal. There is no denying that there are several poignant scenes in the movie that explores the beautiful father-son relationship that scores high on the emotional quotient. However, Paresh Rawal despite delivering a good performance takes his own time to become Dutt Saab but there are several scenes where he falls out of place, like muttering ‘Puttar’ with a non-Punjabi lisp.

Manisha Koirala plays Nargis Dutt and in a short role, she does full justice to the legend coupled with the charm, poise and elegance portrayed on screen where she lends so much dignity to the real-life character. She is simply a treat to watch and is endearing. The biggest surprise is Vicky Kaushal who plays Sanju’s close friend ‘Kamlesh Kapasa’ who is the amalgamation of three close buddies of Sanjay Dutt. He simply brings the house down right from his terrific entry to the emotional scenes pleading to Sunil Dutt to save his son or the scene in the striptease club or his pronunciation of ‘snack’ as snake is hilarious. Kaushal complements ‘Sanju’ at every end in the narration.

Sonam Kapoor who plays Ruby, Sanju’s ex-girlfriend stands tall in the few scenes in the first half and the instance where the former puts the toilet vase in her neck has a searing impact. She delivers in an outstanding fashion and the actor shines every bit in the scene. Anushka Sharma plays the famous and best-selling author Winnie Dias, injecting a certain freshness and showcasing her charisma as an actor. Dia Mirza plays Manyata Dutt and credit goes to her for not being outrageous or over-the-top, is at her charming best, though at times one can feel that she is overshadowed. But, not a bit! Of course, there are heartwarming cameos like Mahesh Manjrekar, Piyush Mishra and Karishma Tanna offering the glamor quotient in this one scene. She is sensual and exudes the oomph factor. Boman Irani adds to the fun while Jim Sarbh is effective. Adita Seiya has an uncanny resemblance to Priya Dutt but she should have given some scenes, knowing that the Dutt sister played an influential part in the family’s life.

There is no glorifying the life of Sanjay Dutt, the superstar and spoilt brat in the movie, contrary to speculations doing the round in some quarters or the omitting of his past relationships. It would be disrespectful to the leading ladies who are well settled in their lives to barge into their privacy, something we should all respect. Hirani is a master story-teller who stayed true to his USP in injecting the light moments and emotions in the right place enshrined in several scenes in the movie. The Sanju-Kamli scenes in the striptease bar, the ghapa-ghap dialogue and ‘Sanju’ confessing of sleeping with 350 women is pure fun and hilarious which brings the house down and works wonderfully. The letter he recites to his father on his death and puts it in his shirt’s pocket or the radio scene speaking about his friendship with Kamli is emotionally charged, so is the scene where Manisha Koirala as Nargis pretends to act in a Hollywood when she is dying of cancer. The moments when the actor breaks down when he hears his mother is dying, Paresh Rawal as ‘Dutt Saab’ sleeps on the floor and switches off the fan because his son is lying in horrible conditions inside jail is searing. Raju Hirani simply sends a strong message on the unconditional love between children and parents, Mom and Dad, executing the father-son bond, subtlety in conveying thoughts through songs on how to ignore brickbats, ‘Kuch toh log kahenge.’ Both songs Mein badhiya and Kar Maidan Fatey bears an impact with the film’s theme and are aesthetically shot.

The most remembered scenes are of the course, one at the Rocky premiere on how Ranbir as Sanjay implores his Dad for help to get out of the drug problems, kicking the ass of the drug peddler Sarbh and refusing to confess saying, ‘I am not a terrorist.’ It wields a huge power on standing for truth and not simply getting away in court.

There is not a dull moment in the 2 hr 40 minutes movie and not once, it drags owing to the crisp narration, script and the master storyteller that Hirani is in holding the sequences in place. It is a masterstroke, coming from a genius who told the biopic story of Sanjay Dutt in an honest manner. Sanju is not just entertaining but a peek into the life of a man who underwent troubles and facing the lows of life to bounce back, blending a fair dose of comedy, emotions and bonding. The sequence, ‘Roar Tiger. at the hospital is impactful and shot in an intense manner. The only issue I have with the movie is the unfair picking on the media that went overboard at times, particularly in the song, ‘Baba Bolta Hai.’ But, both Sanjay Dutt and Ranbir Kapoor look dapper, effortless and like a house on fire in the song. Like a true rockstar, the Deadly Dutt aces it. Sanju is paisa vasool, carries repeat value, a film that one cannot afford to miss for it bears the signature style of a master storyteller Raju Hirani and a Ranbir Kapoor who looks every bit Sanjay Dutt, doing full justice to the maverick actor. Somehow, the truth needed to get out and depends on what we want to believe, often thriving on gossip mills.




Work-in-progress, seeker and bundle of contradictions. Stubborn and Refusal to grow up and constantly in search of myself, I blurt it out on my space. Drop in and share some love. Indian by choice.

8 thoughts on “Film Review: Sanju biopic comes alive on screen

    1. Thanks so much Bikramjit. I tried to put the rise of Sanjay Dutt in context and what altered his destiny when he lost the Number One crown. Hirani Sir has done justice to Sanju Sir and of course Ranbir being his soul while the story relied a lot in facts in putting several instances of fiction. Sanju is a must watch.

    1. Thanks so much Pradita and do watch the movie. Like I said, he was stupid but certainly not a terrorist. He made several mistakes in his life. Do watch and would like to see your view point.

  1. Nice review, Vishal.
    Am yet to watch this movie. They will probably show it on TV this New Year
    Have read that Ranbir Kapoor has done super work. Had watched the interview of the actor and the director in which they revealed that he took advice and tips from the real Sanju baba himself!
    Makes sense to consult the actor on whose life the biopic is made.
    At least the movie will be closer to reality.

    1. Thanks Anita. The biopic does ample justice to the larger than life persona Baba is, his highs and lows, drug problems and arrest. Ranbir has made tremendous effort in impersonating Sanjay Dutt and being him in every frame. Yes! Sanju might come for Diwali as well.

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