By Ambar Chatterjee
‘Ranbir Kapoor shines in an unnecessary biopic’
Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Jim Sarbh, Manisha Koirala, Diya Mirza and Anushka Sharma
Sanju is here. After years and years of speculations, gossips, and unprecedented fanfare, RajkumarHirani finally lets us see his biopic based on the life of Sanjay Dutt. It is a film that documents Sanjay’s journey from his first film to his rampant drug abuse. From his difficult times at the rehabilitation to his shocking incarceration under TADA and a lot more. But more than anything the film tries to document (as faithfully as possible) his relationships with his father, the late Mr. Sunil Dutt (PareshRawal) and his friend Kamli (Vicky Kaushal). These were the two relations that shaped his life. The film also doesn’t forget to show us his camaraderie with another friend Jubin Mistry (Jim Sarbh) who nearly destroyed his life for good.
Let us start off with the positives. Ranbir Kapoor is terrific as Sanjay Dutt. He gets under the skin of the character and never for once drops his guards. He not only gets his gait, his movements, his dialogue delivery and his mannerisms right but also gets the feeling in the emotional scenes spot on. It is evident that he gets the character and has done his homework well. If that was not enough he also gets his camaraderie with Vicky Kaushal’sKamli and his awkward love-hate relation with his father even better.
PareshRawal was probably the only distraction for me in terms of the casting but he does such a good job at interpreting the character of Sunil Dutt in his own way that I gladly accepted him for who he is. From the very onset, the chemistry between the father and the son is done sublimely well. Little nudges here and there clearly show us the under flowing tension between the father and son but it never gets too preachy or pressing. What it does is explain the reasons for Sanju turning to drugs. As the film progresses, we see the metamorphosis of the father as he begins to understand his son and starts comforting him more than disciplining him.Rawal acts his heart out throughout the film. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the film is more about Sanju and his father than anything else.
Sanju meets Kamli at one of the most difficult times of his life and Kamli keeps coming back to help him in times of his need again and again and again. However, when he finally believes what the world has to say about Sanju and abandons him, it comes in as a major jolt. It also comes at a time when the audience is just warming up to Sanju and hence leaves you on a cliffhanger at the halfway mark. Full marks to Kaushal for bringing the character of Kamli to life in a manner that not only makes him believable but also endearing which is also the reason why we identify and associate with him.
Post interval, we dwell deeper and deeper into Sanju’s past and his so-called connections with the underworld as his biographer Winnie Diaz (Anushka Sharma) goes after his friend trying to dig the truth out. This brings me to the next best things about the film. Hirani presents the whole story in fractured timelines maintaining a kind of tension and always the questions “why” and “how” that not only sustain the audience’s interest in the film but also absorbs us in the narrative to an extent.
The four female leads have very little to do but even in a blink and miss cameo, Manisha Koirala shines like a star. She not only resembles Nargis to a great extent but is an absolute charmer. Anushka Sharma is dependable and believable as a biographer who not only gets hooked by Dutt’s story but is also willing to trash the idea of turning it into a book when she is made to believe that he is involved in terrorism. Sonam Kapoor plays a victim and plays it well. Diya Mirza has very little to do to merit any substantial notice. KarishmaTanna looks gorgeous in the lone scene that she is a part off.
Having said all that, as I watched this film, I couldn’t help but ask myself was this anecessary biopic? Did we really need to know all that this film wants to tell us? Is Dutt’s life intriguing enough to be made into a biopic? Is it inspiring enough? Do we have anything to take out of it? Unfortunately, the answer is a “NO”. No matter how well Hirani made his film, he couldn’t escape from the fact that at many junctures the film did turn boring and that is for the simple reason that he couldn’t overstep the boundaries that the content brought with it.
No matter how royal the treatment, the film’s two halves are essentially about Dutt fighting drug-abuse and trying to clear his name from the Bombay Blast case (now Mumbai). These two episodes are pulled an hour and 20 minutes apiece with romance, song, drama, father-son relationship and camaraderie thrown in between. There is only as much as we can take and very frequently the film overstayed its welcome, especially in the 1st half. What saved it from going down was Ranbir Kapoor’s terrific act who proves to be a major screen-stealer.
In the end of it all, Sanju is bogged down by nothing else but the limitation of its content. The fact that the director aims to present a pristine and highly watered down version of Dutt’s life only adds to its handicap. Ranbir’ssuperb act and the performances of every other cast member is a high point. Apart from that the film is also intriguing in parts and is able to sustain some interest. However, a huge runtime, lethargic pace, insipid music and a lack of any major inspiring moments make this a fairly average watch. My mammoth expectations from it also ruined it for me a bit I guess. After watching this film, I feel that it wasn’t worth the wait.