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Clean Chit To ‘Sanju’: An Honest Film Review

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The D-Day that was marked on every calendar ultimately arrived, and Rajkumar Hirani delivered in his signature style. He added a comic touch to translate the life of Sanjay Dutt and his string of bad choices on celluloid. This was a calculated risk and could have easily misfired, but this is where Hirani’s talent comes in to play.

Adhering to a caricaturish tone, like many of Rajkumar Hirani’s other movies, with an idea of bringing poetic justice to us at the end, his characters come across as almost comical but never laughable. This tone is crucial for a film like “Sanju” that deals with sensitive issues that encircle the life of Sanjay Dutt. The use of a nickname as the title of the film becomes a salient feature as it somehow helps the audience to feel empathy towards the lead character.

The film effectuates an emotional and forgiving outlook of Dutt’s choices by highlighting his life’s sufferings, some of which he brought upon himself. There are major loopholes in the script, and parts of Dutt’s life don’t find a mention in it. For example, his first wife who died of cancer or his daughter Trishala don’t feature in this 161-minute flick. The narrative is not slow, and the first half is gripping and will keep the audience glued to their seats. The film is a tribute to Bollywood and its Golden era and pays homage to Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, and Anand Bakshi.

We almost forget that there is a huge ensemble of actors who swirl in and out of frame. The film casts Paresh Rawal as the actor-turned-parliamentarian Sunil Dutt. Vicky Kaushal as Kamli, Sanju’s best friend. Dia Mirza as Manyata Dutt, Jim Sarbh as the friend with a bad influence. Manisha Koirala as the legendary actress Nargis Dutt. Anushka Sharma as biographer Winnie Diaz, Sonam Kapoor as Sanju’s girlfriend, whose outer appearance is startlingly similar to Sanjay Dutt’s then-girlfriend Tina Munim. Boman Irani plays his girlfriend’s father and the esteemed actress Tabu is seen in a guest appearance. But this film clearly belongs to Ranbir Kapoor, his success lying in the fact that he could embrace many of Sanjay Dutt’s life stories and become the many characters that Sanjay Dutt played during the different phases in his life, off-screen. How very meta.

Ranbir has acquired more than Sanjay Dutt’s body language, style of speaking and under eye bags that are a result of heavy drinking. “Sanju” becomes a spectacle to watch hugely due to Ranbir Kapoor’s contribution to the character in a film that continually tries to portray Sanjay Dutt as a victim of bad peers, draconian laws and a case of bad journalism that has caused his reputation to take a hit.

“Sanju” tries to paint its subject as a sufferer. Son of the legendary actress Nargis and the stalwart actor Sunil Dutt, who worked together in India’s first movie to be nominated for the Oscars – “Mother India”. Their family history and long legacy brought expectations and baggage under which our Sanju seems to have wavered a little, according to the director. While trying to live up to his father’s greatness and his mother’s stardom he wound up instead in a life mired by insecurities.

Dutt Sahab, who I have a lot of respect for and who was undoubtedly a man of great virtue, is shown as Sanjay Dutt’s greatest pillar of strength in the film. He chooses to remain patient with his son through all his misjudgments. The two most remarkable films of Sanjay Dutt’s career, “Rocky” (1981) and “Munnabhai MBBS” (2003) are only a consequence of Sanjay standing on his father’s shoulders. The scenes shot involving the duo are deeply moving and truly stem from a place of honesty, leaving us heartbroken and emotional. A speech in the film, which was not well-written but was a part of a well-crafted scene, touched the emotional apex for me and I wouldn’t lie, this is where I bawled. Rajkumar Hirani is a genius because the audience feels exactly what he wants them to.

We have a film that claims to give us the backstory on Sanjay Dutt’s life and this time we get to hear it from Dutt himself and not some tabloid. Whether it is an attempt to clean up a tarnished reputation or a completely honest account is debatable. A leap of artistic liberties has been taken, but as was proclaimed at the start of the film, “Bad choices make good stories”, and the eternal bad boy’s filmy life was destined to become a Bollywood masala flick, a good one at that.

While the variance between Sanjay Dutt’s real life and reel life seems to have obtained a momentous gulf, the audience stayed till the promotional song only to get up on their feet and give the hagiography a standing ovation, inside the four walls of a cinema hall that was teeming with people. It is enough to conclude that Sanju has been given a clean chit by the audience.

“Sanju” is the story of a less than impressive son who is burdened with the pressure of having to live up to the name of the house of Dutt and the price he had to pay for not being as legendary as his parents. It is a treat you should definitely subject yourself to.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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