Changed Sanju to create empathy for Sanjay Dutt, confesses Rajkumar Hirani
Rajkumar Hirani said people hated Sanjay Dutt’s character during Sanju test screenings, forcing him to shoot scenes that create empathy for him. Ranbir Kapoor played Dutt in the film.
Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani revealed he shot additional portions for Sanju starring Ranbir Kapoor, his biographical drama on Sanjay Dutt, to create empathy for the actor after people “hated” him in test screenings. Hirani said the initial edit featured the actor’s story as it was and thus was not liked by people.
“During the shoot I felt ‘What am I doing, I’m going wrong.’ In fact, when the first edit was ready and we screened for people, they hated him. They said we don’t like this man, we don’t want to watch him,” he said. “Because I wanted to do a true story, I didn’t create any empathy towards him. I said lets not create empathy and show (him) as he is. But later I understood that he is our hero, we need some empathy for him,” the director added.
Hirani said he had to add a certain scene in Sanju to create empathy for its lead character, which was not there earlier. “The scene where he tries to kill himself after the verdict is out; which he had mentioned to me but we didn’t put in the film, I shot it later. It was not in the original script. I thought through this some empathy will come... The initial test reactions were like ‘naah we don’t like this guy...’ Every film is a journey. Some things work and some don’t. I still see flaws in the film but you try your best and hope your best is good enough.”
The director was in conversation with writer Anjum Rajabali at Indian Film and TV Directors Association’s (IFTDA) special masterclass on Wednesday. Hirani said Dutt’s story was so vast, anyone could have picked an event of his life and made a standalone film. The director feels filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, for instance, would have made a great Sanju.
“Everyone view the story through their own perspective. Someone would’ve made Sanju only on the chapter of how he acquired the gun, destroyed it, and then the case. It could have been a film of it’s own. But I thought everyone knew this. The father-son equation interested me more.
“I was blown away by ‘Black Friday’. If Anurag would have heard the story, he may have been attracted to the gun angle and would have made that story. He would have made a great film with that.”
The 3 Idiots director is aware of the criticism that film never questions Dutt’s intentions as each time it was either with good intentions that the bad choices were made or he was victim of certain pressure. But Hirani says he is critical of Dutt’s actions, though he believes the actor could be flawed but always harmless.
“He goes and sleeps with his best friend’s girlfriend but there isn’t any reason. Their friendship was almost jeopardised... The other scene where he puts the commode seat on a girl he wants to marry, I am not defending that! It’s a terrible action,” he said.
“My perception of Sanju was that he has done so many weird things but he is not a bad man... I felt he had an innocence, he is naughty but he doesn’t harm anyone. He didn’t pick up the gun, scared people or fired a shot. He made a mistake,” he added. The director once again dismissed the criticism that he has “whitewashed” Dutt’s life.
“We made a commentary about certain section of the media and the term ‘whitewashed’ came into play. Everywhere I go people say I have whitewashed him but I haven’t. A journalist asked me, why did you whitewash Sanju and I asked what was Sanju’s crime? I am not defending the man but myself and the film. He kept a gun, destroyed it too, lied to his father and was arrested. I showed it all, his drug phase and the way he treated people. So where have I whitewashed?” Hirani asked.