Rajkumar Hirani’s “Sanju” begins when it seems his protagonist’s career is ending. Being jailed under the arms act and given 6 years of imprisonment, Dutt finds a dire need to tell his story to public and meets a famous biographer from London, Winnie Diaz (Anushka Sharma), convincing her to author. We are set in motion with his narratives to Diaz from the “Rocky” days to his Drug addictions to untimely death of his mother (Manisha Koirala) and his relationship with Father.
The first half engulfs the coming of the star and the fame aftermath. It showcases the drug highs with colorful flowers and journey to hobbit land and the lows with reckless behavior towards friends and family. The problem is not the drugs here rather the intake explanations that are part of the script, the first time for insignificant scolding, second after finding of his mother’s cancer and further due to peer pressure. While all these may seem to be legit reasons but they set an undertone which persist throughout the narrative, an undertone which sets the backdrop of “Sanju”, an undertone which establishes Sanju as “misguided” youth. The next narrative by Kamli (Vicky Kushal), Dutt’s close confidante, entirely deals with Dutt’s encounter with the underworld and the infamous TADA case. This firmly lays an emotional overwrap transcending deeper to a father-son relationship. Hirani grasps the intricacies of this relationship beautifully with his characteristic humor and sequential buildup. Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal), outraged over a question mark set after a headline “Dutt involved with Underworld?” goes to meet the editor and condemns the media tactics. He leaves, telling editor to print the news without the question mark to reflect authenticity. The whole printing gaffe and “?” print again becomes the misunderstanding point when Kamli withdraws support and distances himself over a headline “RDX carrying truck parked in Dutt’s house?”. The film overplays this part and tries too hard to convince one of the Dutt’s ignorant involvement in Arms case and the script justifications of every act are cause for dismay. Everything starts coming down to impetuous journalism with media as the real culprit.
The enchant here is Ranbir Kapoor who gives his career best by such a nuanced performance through every transitional phase of Dutt’s life and this makes you stick to the film regardless of the flaws. Manisha Koirala’s little emulations of De Niro (Taxi driver) and Brando (Godfather) are delight to watch. Vicky Kaushal shines bright with his natural portrayal of Dutt’s Gujarati friend and complements Ranbir really well. Ranbir’s pitch perfect act along with Paresh Rawal’s strong portrayal of Sunil Dutt by bringing his own style to character, supported by Hirani’s storytelling style somehow keep this drama afloat in-spite of its debatable flaws and manage to add an overall appeal.
In five movies, Hirani, in his own way, fashioned the most distinctive works, here I guess he got caught between playing a director and a friend. And the win here is that he manages to come out with just a scant dent.