In Sanju, we get the story of one of Bollywood’s eternal bad boys, Sanjay Dutt. Well, some of it, at any rate. Sanju to be an account of the whole truth, it offers a thoroughly engaging probe into the life of a flawed individual who, grappling with the shadow of a towering figure of a father, believes “it is okay to be ordinary”.
Rajkumar Hirani brings all his proven storytelling skills to bear upon his fictionalised but completely believable exploration of the real-life adventures of Sanjay Dutt, who became a drug addict even before his first film hit the screen in the early 1980s and, a decade and a bit later, dug a big legal hole for himself and his family owing to his ill-advised links with underworld elements in the period after the 1992-1993 Mumbai riots and subsequent Mumbai serial bomb blasts.
Ranbir Kapoor, slipping into the skin of the troubled Bollywood star, pulls out the stops in astonishingly effective ways, subsuming his own personality completely into that of the protagonist. The director is on the top of his game and the actor frequently soars to dizzying heights. Among others, it’s Manisha Koirala who impresses as Nargis Dutt. Vicky Kaushal begins well but finds it difficult to remain the same guy as the film nears climax.
The 160-minute film, which is essentially a touching father-son drama that also pays tribute to some of Hindi cinema’s greatest lyricists, glides through its busy, pulsating narrative without ever suffering anything akin to an ungainly wobble.
The director has tried to bind the screenplay with songs but instead of adding intensity to the film, they break the flow. On the topic of intensity, Sanju seems like two different films from the perspectives of Hirani and Ranbir. While Hirani’s Sanju is about the paradoxical life of a star, Ranbir’s is much more deep and complex.
Sanju, is mostly engaging, and some of it good enough to make you laugh out loud in pleasure, especially when Hirani is killing it. But you wonder too what the film chose to leave out, and you wonder if this would have been more of a film if those things had been in here.
Sanju is the film that it is because of the infectious energy Ranbir Kapoor injects into the film. An absolute must-watch.