Targeting media in Sanju won’t clean up Sanjay Dutt’s image. Here’s why

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Jul 04, 2018 11:12 AM IST

Sanju presents media as the villain in Sanjay Dutt’s life. The Ranbir Kapoor film tries to clear Sanjay Dutt of many charges he has faced in his life.

Sanju, a biopic on controversial star Sanjay Dutt, suffers from a skewed viewpoint. The film begins by comparing Dutt with Mahatama Gandhi and ends with the actor doing ‘gandhigiri’ inside Yerawada jail. In between, the so-called biopic blames everybody but the actor himself for all the wrongs that have happened in his life.

Ranbir Kapoor has earned praise for playing Sanjay Dutt in Sanju.
Ranbir Kapoor has earned praise for playing Sanjay Dutt in Sanju.

There are spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own will.

Some of claims made in the film are hilarious. For example, he is forced into drugs by a man called Zubin Mistry, played by Jim Sarbh. At one point, the film says that Mistry himself used glucose powder while giving hardcore drugs to Dutt.

In the same way, the actor displays his womanising skills by sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend. The reason he gives is outrageous: it was all to check the woman’s loyalty to his friend.

Sanju is sympathetic to Sanjay Dutt.
Sanju is sympathetic to Sanjay Dutt.

Then comes the AK-56 chapter, which is not probed well in the film. Surprisingly, the film tries to portray this whole episode as an innocent bid by Dutt to save his family. Just remember, we are talking about banned and highly sophisticated weapons here. Getting them was never easy.

Hirani reveals his actual plan much later in the film. He portrays the “sensationalist media” as the real culprit for whatever happened to Dutt, as if it was the media and not our wayward hero who made the mistakes.

In today’s scenario, blaming the media is just convenient. The media may be sensationalist, sure, but it cannot be held responsible for your misdeeds. Mistakes you made may be covered, but it also gives you the opportunity to be heard. It works both ways.

But this tactic doesn’t work because Hirani’s selective filmmaking and rage is really easy to call out. He has structured the film in such a way that the only option left for the audience is to cheer for the protagonist. Even the smallest attempt to cast Sanju under an objective light is absent.

Interestingly, there are no accounts from his daughter and previous wives – who were the ones who actually saw Dutt weather these turbulent times. The controversial audio tapes of 2000 are not touched upon either. In a 161-minute film that dedicates its entire first half to his struggle with drugs, it wouldn’t have been that difficult to incorporate one more subplot.

In the garb of a feel-good film about a controversial actor, Hirani has tried to whitewash Dutt’s image. And it’s not just in the context of his association with the underworld; most of his filmography is also absent from Sanju.

There is Rocky, and then there is Munnabhai, as if no other film mattered in his life. Not even Vaastav! Is it because the movie could have brought the focus back to his underworld connections?

Sanju’s sympathetic tone is easily understandable, and this prompts the audience to look at other aspects of the film. Once they notice the director’s cautious take on Dutt’s life, they stop seeing it as an honest biopic. And a fictional, carefully constructed story cannot do much to clean anybody’s image.

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    Rohit Vats is a film journalist who loves to read in between the lines. He can spend hours watching films and cricket matches. Also a script consultant.

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