Have you ever bought a fake bag, sunglasses, even books from a roadside vendor who ran when the cops came? Have you ever had a friend who was told they resemble a movie star and then they became so annoying in that imitation that you are no longer friends? Watching Sanju was just such an experience. Granted, that Rajkumar Hirani's craft is visible, because he plays with all kinds of emotion. Granted also that Ranbir Kapoor has a humongous talent for imitation.
What should have been the story of a meteoric rise of a privileged brat who turned into a superstar, brought down by drugs and women and then guns and bad company, and then rises against all odds, ends up being a two and half hour mimicry show, which glosses over everything.
The storytelling style is like a conversation, Sanjay Dutt talking about his life. And that's a fine narrative device too. But the writing swings from Bambaiyya style slang in dialog ('Faad daala' and 'Waat laagli') to his internal dialog, when he's arguing with the lawyers, and pleading with the underworld don, he speaks quite normally.
And what's with seeing flowers and rainbows when showing us drug induced hallucinations? Will troubled souls see flowers? There is much better madness in Disney's Fantasia, Mickey is a Sorcerer's Apprentice and even he sees pink elephants on unicycles, ostriches and hippos doing ballet and mushrooms and multiplying brooms when things go out of control. And Rajkumar Hirani shows us flowers and more flowers blooming and in his most drug induced sadness, we see Sanju write his girlfriend's name and blows on it and the letters vanish as if made of smoke. If flowers is what Sanju saw when he did drugs, then why is he so troubled?
Of course not, he was not troubled at all! They casually dismiss his womanising as a statistic. Something his wife jokes about and the reporter notes it down as, 'How honest he is!' No one thought it was weird to reduce women to numbers? Who would believe that a superstar who is rumored to have dated some of the most beautiful women would just gloss over this part of his life with one line? And no one tells us how he was married to the woman who is shown to defend him with her all?
Let's gloss over the guns and the other violent parts of his nature too! Show us how he 'playfully' makes a writer pray to him because he dares to suggest that his biopic should have comparisons to Mahatma Gandhi, and then forcibly removes the writer's shoes because he is made to look like a God in the biopic he's writing. Well, in that case, the same should be done to the director who wants us to believe Sanjay Dutt was a super good guy, just misunderstood.
And he's such a huge movie star, there's nothing, nothing about his movies. No highs when his screaming fans chase him, no lows when the movies fail. In fact, apart from the first movie and one scene of his very first film, and one of his last films we see nothing of Sanjay Dutt the movie star.
But the one shining star in this movie is Vicky Kaushal. The friend who stays with Sanju through all his ups and downs. He made me cry and he made me smile. And you come away wishing you had a friend like Kamli. This performance is not just the best, but shows us what the film could have been, resemblance to Sanjay Dutt be damned. Yes Paresh Rawal too gives off the Sunil Dutt vibe and makes good dad to the Sanju. But in the end, no matter how much lipstick and gloss and glitter you put on a pig, it won't turn into a unicorn. Despite the creepy similarity to the real Sanju baba, this film remains what it is, a pig.
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