7 Jul 2018

Sanju: Sympathetic and Undeniably Entertaining Propaganda


Information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause.

"The propaganda brainwashed many people."

(WordWeb Dictionary)

I saw Sanju first day, first show last Friday. The film has kept echoing within me for over a week now. I caught up with the movie again today. Devoid of the excitement I had the first time, the second time was a more studied watch.

Partial, Sly... 
Sanju is clearly a Sanjay Dutt-backed story about his controversial life as a drug-addict, alcoholic and a terror-act accused prisoner. The potentially defaming 350 plus girlfriend list is mentioned and brushed over.

The main contention - Is Sanju a true story? So, how wrong is it to portray a controversial actor in a forgiving light? Does a movie have to be righteous too? How much of the film is a careful image-building exercise for Sanjay Dutt? It is only because of the numerous entertaining moments that these questions are kept at bay, at least while watching the film.

For sheer entertainment value, Sanju is a fictional reinterpretation. There is a lot of heart in it, despite the sly and emotionally manipulative screenplay.

...Yet Supremely Entertaining!
Sanju is a convenient victimization of Sanjay Dutt. Many harsh real-life details are cut out. The film is partisan, but also true to itself. It is sympathetic and unjustified in its news media-bashing stance to a degree. Sanjay Dutt's bad choices are passed on to a drug peddler friend, loss of a mother, weight of expectations and an allegedly harsh media, thus softening our view of the protagonist.

But I can't deny that Sanju is a funny, intense, dramatic, emotional and uplifting exploration of a human zeal for waywardness, self-destruction and for a zest for life too.

Powerful, Influential Screenplay
How Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani shape the screenplay to a careful mass audience simplicity is sheer genius. They know what to retain and what to showcase for dramatic and humorous effect.

The screenplay's prime focus is Sanju's (Ranbir Kapoor) equation with his politician/actor father Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) and best friend Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal). The interplay of this trio brings out the film's most touching, genuine and funniest moments. Sanjay Dutt's tussle with drug addiction is the most touching part of the movie. The second half, I-Am-Not-A-Terrorist act is overdone. The gentle touches and excellent humour cover up most of the glitches.

Ranbir Kapoor & Friends 
Ranbir Kapoor nails the most difficult role of his life yet with uncanny talent and amazing acting skills. Kapoor goes beyond just resembling Dutt (great prosthetics and makeup). He somehow attains the complexity, vulnerability, and self-destructive nature of Dutt. It's a performance of a lifetime. Paresh Rawal (Despite no work by the makers on creating a resemblance), does a superb, dignified take on Sunil Dutt. Vicky Kaushal is mostly first-rate as a loyal Gujarati friend.

Anushka Sharma as a bestselling writer is bad characterization. Her character is at best plastic, forced and reeks the most of propaganda. Her forgiving, awe-struck reactions to Sanju's storytelling is played up for favouritism. Manisha Koirala as Nargis adds charm to her brief role. Boman Irani, Sonam Kapoor, Jimi Mistry do great cameos. Dia Mirza has little to do as Sanju's wife Manyata Dutt.

Dubious Purpose, Surprising Results  
Manipulating facts to dish out entertainment is a new low for Hirani. Sanju is a morally-questionable showcase of his famous audience-influencing powers. Yet Sanju ends up as uplifting, damn funny and intense 161-minute propaganda, thanks to the mercurial Hirani-Ranbir Kapoor collaboration.

There is a strange sunny positive vibe to Sanju. Despite the cover-ups, there are many sparkling trademark Hirani life truths dispensed here.

Go experience Sanju at the theatres, preferably free of any prejudice or blind fan loyalty. You may hate it, you may love it, you can't ignore it.

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