Sanju

WHAT A FRUSTRATING AND HYPOCRITICAL FILM. I have never seen a film with more disregard for the audience's intelligence. Race 3 doesn't expect or want us to believe it, but I think Raju Hirani, and maybe Sanjay Dutt himself, wants us to accept Sanju's version of history. How insulting.

A 3-hour biopic that only barely shows its subject as responsible for anything he does—especially when his life situation is one of being a privileged recipient of nepotism of celebrity, artistic, and political systems and clout—is absurd. Its blame of "the media" for Sanjay's problems is ignorant and childish, though in keeping with its pretense of the nature of its protagonist. BABA PLEASE. Add some nuance, some specificity.

Criticizing tabloid sensationalism is absolutely fine and probably a good idea. Publications that hound celebrities in their private spaces and non-work-related goings-on and revel in the cycle of building people up and tearing them down are definitely a problem, and those of us who consume that type of celebrity "news" are complicit in perpetuating it. But that's not what this film is talking about. It makes no effort to distinguish or specify what type of press it's talking about beyond referring to newspapers. Painting all of the media as such is absolutely not acceptable. What about the journalists and organizations who do the real work of investigating terrorism and violence and political corruption and did do so regarding the bomb blasts and violence so pivotal to Sanjay's story? Also, you can't say all press is bad but beg "the world's best biographer" LOLOLOL to save your reputation LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL based on her merits proclaimed in a fawning newspaper article! Having film family scions—at least one of them appearing as himself—asking us to ignore their press coverage is just pathetic.

In no way do I think the real Sanjay Dutt is a villain, nor do I think he should have been portrayed as one. As the film states clearly in the beginning, he's the king of bad choices; his addiction problems deserve the respect of any medical condition and his fear for the safety of his family during communal violence is (at least to me) sympathetic. But this film has simplification and falsification on a very grand scale. It's a very expensive yet very cheap film. If this is the story you want to tell, just make up the people and don't bother with pretending it's a biography. If you think Sanjay Dutt's life is interesting, then show the actual story. If you can't or won't be honest and open about your friend, don't make a movie about your friend's life. And if you want to nod to your own role in rehabilitating someone's career and healing his relationship with his father, then you have an uncomfortably large ego.

These are Sanju's major problems, in my opinion, but there are some minor ones. The special effects during the drug trip sequences are laughable, which I didn't expect at all. There is inconsistent attention paid to period detail in the props, sets, and costumes of secondary characters and background actors (the workout wear of the drug rehab dance class in the 80s is particularly egregious). There's not even attention paid to real people in his life—the film completely ignores the existence of his first two wives and his first daughter. His sisters barely speak. The scene around Sanjay's friend's girlfriend is hypocritical but played for laughs, another brick in the wall of everyone being responsible for Sanjay except for Sanjay himself. The songs are forgettable other than "Baba Bolta Hain Bas Ho Gaya", which is very catchy, but like everything else it's too broad. There is no real point to the biographer character; the same narrative technique could have been created by simply having his friends remember him in flashback. And if you want your father to stop controlling you, how about you stop accepting all the benefits of his career, fame, and power?

Sanju is a real mess. For me, the excellent performances and the genuinely touching drama between the Dutt men barely make themselves felt through the shock of the shlock. It's such a disappointment.

Update to post (July 7): while talking with top friend Amrita today, we agreed (as I'm sure others do) that a much more interesting subject for a biopic would be Sunil Dutt. He made largely good choices, many of them to help or serve other people—and without the initial career boost of nepotism.

Footnote in the name of being accurate to history: Through a friend's connections, I got to spend a little time with Raju Hirani the last time I was in India. He was interesting and fun to talk with, and he shared with us his invitation to a private screening of MS Dhoni. It is because of him I got to briefly chat with the star of one of my favorite films of recent years, as well as Rajkummar Rao and Kunal Kohli—and before you laugh at me putting those two names in the same sentence, I'll tell you that Mujhse Dosti Karoge is the movie that hooked me on Hindi films, so I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to him. I don't feel great being angry about a film that a nice person made, and I don't envy all of you who are actual journalists who are actual friends with people in the film industry when your thoughts, opinions, job duties, and ethics mean that you have to say things your friends don't want to hear. But I'm glad you do it, because honest conversations about art and about industry are crucial. 

Comments

Atom said…
I do agree with ur opinion. It was like they were trying to make a Disney musical of charlie sheen or Pablo Escobar.But it did move me at some points and made me emotional at some scenes.I didn't get bored even for a single movement. This is one poor choice from rajkumar hirani.But rabbit gave one hell of a performance.