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‘Choose Your Friends Carefully’ And 3 Other Life Lessons I Learned From ‘Sanju’

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Braving the notorious Mumbai rains, I went to watch the movie “Sanju”. Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, I had heard this movie was the biopic of my favourite actor and childhood crush Sanjay Dutt, played by Ranbir Kapoor. I remember imagining myself as Farah and singing that song with Dutt from the movie “Inamdar”, “Aur is dil mein kya rakha hai/Tera hi dard chupa rakha hai/ Cheer ke dekhein dil mera toh/Tera hi naam likha rakha hai,” and weeping bitterly as I felt it should have been my name written on Dutt’s heart. Since then, I had watched several movies of Dutt and my love for him turned to hatred when he was arrested in April 1993 under provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for possessing an AK 56 rifle in connection with Mumbai blasts.

So I decided to go and watch the movie of this ‘bad’ man who had claimed to have slept with 300+ women, had been an addict, had been a terrorist, had been the black sheep in the family, and had gone through two divorces. I was swearing when the movie started.

It did start on a hilarious note with Sanju mocking the writer who he had asked to write a biography on him. The writer had started the draft by comparing Dutt with Mahatma Gandhi. And Dutt retorting “Pehle hi chapter mein Gandhi bana diya hai, toh end tak toh bhagwan bana dega (If you’ve made me Gandhi in the first chapter itself, I’ll become God by the end of the book).” I laughed. Silly start, this man had been a terrorist and I was guessing Raj Kumar Hirani is attempting to get Dutt some redemption.

But that was not the case. The movie turned brutally harsh as it spoke of a broken childhood, drug abuse, the effect of bad company and also the fact that parents should not expect the moon from a child. Don’t get me wrong please, I am not here to share a review of “Sanju” that has already been written by many top media houses. I have something else to offer. The lessons one can learn from this bad man and his biopic.

The movie had been narrated by three persons. First, the writer Winnie Diaz played by Anushka Sharma whom Dutt requests to pen his biopic; second is his best friend Kamli played by Vicky Kaushal; third is Sunil Dutt played by Paresh Rawal.

The first lesson: Beware of drugs, stay away from addiction. Choose your friends carefully

Sanju asks Winnie to pen his biography so that people know the exact truth behind his tragic life. Here, Winnie is deterred by Zubin Mistry (played by Jim Sarbh) saying that Sanju is nothing but a druggie whom he had known for years. He points to a scar on his forehead and blames Dutt for it. On being asked about this, Dutt reveals the truth to Winnie.

Sanju had met Zubin on a film set where Sanju was nervous on giving the first shot. He was scared of Sunil Dutt who was directing the film and to get the shot right he puffs a cigarette from Zubin to calm himself. That was the beginning of his destruction. Zubin takes him to the land of drugs. It was Zubin who introduced Dutt to marijuana, hashish, LSD, heroin, cocaine, and several inhalants. While Zubin tricked him by consuming glucose powder himself, he dragged Dutt down. So be careful about who you call your friend.

Dutt did not understand good versus evil but now you can. And never ever try drugs. We get hoards of advertisements saying that smoking causes cancer and alcohol is injurious to health, but trust me, drugs will finish you forever.

Another word of caution, recovery from drug abuse is very difficult. Sanju had to go through rehabilitation in America where he dealt with tremendous withdrawal symptoms, and even tried to flee from the de-addiction centre. His life was highly influenced by his mother Nargis Dutt and he looked at her as his role model to fight the addiction.

On his return to India when Zubin tried to force drugs on him, Sanju beats him up and thus the cut mark on the forehead. So I hope the lesson is now loud and clear. Choose your company carefully and steer clear of drugs.

The second lesson: A friend in need is a friend indeed 

The innocent friend Kamlesh aka Kamli who an immigrant in NYC, becomes a pillar of support for Dutt. Kamli had met Dutt in the hospital where Nargis was recuperating and being an ardent fan of Nargis Dutt, he wanted to gift a statue of Ganapati for her recovery. Nargis Dutt battled cancer for a long time, and to combat that grief, Dutt resorted to using drugs.

It was Kamli who helped him get out of the addiction, provided a shoulder each time Dutt broke down and also stood by him during his bad days. He even postponed his plan to buy a car and rushed to India when Dutt called him in desperation, pleading to save him. So, there you are. This is the kind of friendship one should share. I too have severed ties with my school friends with whom I grew up. They were backstabbing spoilsports. In our WhatsApp group, there were two men who were Corex addicts and also alcoholics, and these friends of mine supported their acts instead of urging them to stop. So what is the use of this friendship? Better to be alone rather being in the company of fake friends. Go get a friend like Kamli who will stand by you in your difficult times, who will help you when the need arises.

The third lesson: Parenting, dealing with childhood and adolescence 

Dutt was scared of his father. He confided in Kamli that his father never praised him and wanted him to be a perfectionist. That was one of the reasons he took to drugs. Sr. Dutt understood it only after Kamli intervened and asked Dutt saab to look at Sanju as an ordinary human and not a superhero. Even Sanju breaks down in front of his father saying that he didn’t want to die because of drugs.

Parents, don’t get me wrong. I know your intentions are good but breathe easy. Senior Dutt later became a friend with Sanju and in the process, got his son rid of the addiction, gangsters, and helped him become a celebrated film artist. Go praise your child even for the smallest achievement. Appreciate even their smallest win. It will boost your child’s confidence.

The fourth lesson: Find true love

Dutt made the mistake of having sex with numerous women and that is offensive and also an unpardonable act. As a counsellor myself, I would like to say it was a result of losing his mother at a very young age. Search for your soulmate instead. Dutt, after all his failed relationships, found solace in Manyata. Wait for your time. Do not play with emotions. It will ultimately harm you. Dutt even slept with Kamli’s girlfriend and I strongly condemn the act. I blame both of them. It is sheer immaturity and as I said pure lust. Manayata stood by Dutt all the while he was in jail. She took care of the kids, managed the lawyers and countless other issues which we may not even be aware of. So there you are. Understand the difference between love and lust.

These are the four lessons which I learned from watching this movie. I don’t want to discuss Dutt’s issues with AK 56 and Bombay blasts. Supreme Court has already taken care of it. But yes, one thing I would like to make clear, I don’t think that he is a terrorist. As I said, bad company, drugs, illicit affairs, immaturity, early loss of mother made him so vulnerable that he kept the gun to protect his father but paid a high price for it and it has been well portrayed in the movie. In fact, you will get a brush of his perils inside the jail once you see the trailer.

To conclude, while the first half of the movie dragged, it gained momentum in the second half. Making a biopic is very demanding and Raj Kumar Hirani deserves accolades for portraying such excruciating details. The cast and crew have done a wonderful job. Watch Sanju for tears, laughter, life lessons, pain, struggle and everything. Go grab some popcorn and watch the movie today!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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