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The Ever So Candid Munnabhai Comes Across As An Insecure Celebrity Desperate For Approval

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Sanjay Dutt (Sanju), son of former Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and two-time Member of Parliament Sunil Dutt and celebrated yesteryear actor Nargis Dutt, was sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment on 31 July 2007 by TADA court for illegal possession of weapons.

Fact Sheet:

  • In 1993, Sanjay Dutt confessed that while shooting for his film “Yalgar”, he met Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai through actor-producer Feroz Khan. He was also introduced to Iqbal Mirchi, Sharad Shetty and Chota Rajan during the same trip.
  • Sanjay Dutt was to spend 1,825 days in jail. He was granted remission of 60 days for good conduct by the authorities. He earned 156 leaves while in jail. He spent the balance i.e. 164 days or 5.5 months spread over 6 paroles and furloughs.
  • Dutt was granted furlough for reasons ranging from his daughter’s surgery to celebrating the New Year with his family. Furloughs are granted to prisoners to attend to emergency situations.
  • While out, Dutt also found time to attend a special screening of the movie “PK”. Consider this against the disturbing fact that 67% prisoners (2 out of 3) in India are undertrials, many of whom are in prison because they simply cannot afford bail.

Cut to the movie “Sanju” and one is confounded. To call it Sanjay Dutt’s biopic is an overstretch. It is just a heady concoction of selected incidents to salvage his image and pave way for further opportunities in public and professional life. Economical in truth, the biopic fails to go beyond being a frantic attempt by the actor to re-brand himself and make him worthy of commercial endorsements and masala flicks.

Bollywood Brat

At the beginning of the movie, Sanju is shooting for his maiden Bollywood venture “Rocky”, which is being directed by his father, Sunil Dutt. Being a beneficiary of nepotism, the college drop-out has little idea about the entry barriers that exist in Bollywood. Obviously, he does not value this opportunity. With little to worry about, the young lad unabashedly indulges himself in debauchery until he is introduced to yet another addictive vice – drugs. Like any other drug addict, he blames the situation for his addiction. Heedless to the worries of his ageing father or his declining career, Sanju continues to drown himself in smoke and booze.

The only noteworthy milestone in Sanju’s life is his resolve to quit drugs, that too after he has escaped from the rehabilitation centre. However, the devil-may-care attitude of the actor does not leave him.

His reckless attitude towards his professional commitments continues till much later. There is a scene in the movie where middle-aged Sanju receives a professional call on his landline. To sneak out of the situation, he pretends to be stuck in a traffic jam. When his bluff is called out, there is no sign of shame or guilt. He is shamelessly unaccountable and the audience is expected to love him for his laxity.

In another scene, Sanju’s distraught father tries to convince him to lie to the police and absolve himself of the controversy. Yes, he refuses to compromise his father’s respect for his own release. Too little too late for the very next moment, both father and son are seen confronting the media and playing the victim of stardom. This is straight out of a controversial superstar’s playbook. With due respect to senior Dutt, the cushioned upbringing of his son also played a part in the creation of the prodigal Sanju

Throughout the movie, Sanju refuses to behave like a responsible citizen. His sense of entitlement is telling of the sons and daughters of celebrity parents, who don’t have to worry about their bread and butter. Irrespective of their talent, these torchbearers of nepotism continue to enjoy power, fame and public adulation.

Blame All But Sanju

Sanju’s only consistent trait throughout the movie is his penchant for finding a person or situation to blame for his follies.

  • He blames his poor acting on the pressures of being the protégé of Sunil Dutt and Nargis for his nervousness on camera, ungracious of the professional opportunities he enjoyed as their son. Did the ace director, Rajkumar Hirani forget to tell the audience about Dutt’s frequent paroles or the kind of privileges he enjoyed as Sunil Dutt’s son?
  • He blames his first encounter with drugs on a public fallout with his father; his second on his mother’s illness. Not once does he accept it was his inability to cope with stress that led him to drugs. He succumbed under pressure due to his lack of mental fortitude and unlimited access to wealth.
  • He blames Hindu groups and lack of security from the police for his possession of AK 56 rifles. He then blames the question mark used at the end of speculative reports for his tarnished public image. My question to Sanjay Dutt is – will he have a problem with a speculative headline like “Sanju hits 500 crore club?” If not, he has no right to be peeved by a headline such as “Is Sanju finished?” Yes, this ‘?’ is what makes the public curious about celebrities and it is this inquisitiveness that keeps celebrities relevant. Sanju made poor choices as an individual in a crisis. Period.

Where was the penance?

Throughout the 160-minute run, I couldn’t spot one scene where the protagonist repents for his deeds. He occasionally chides himself for violating his father, before he encroaches on another forbidden territory. Sanju has no guilt or remorse for his transgressions. Only a privileged son can afford to throw tantrums and be tutored on work ethics by his father at the age of forty.

While Sanju does acknowledge that his father deserved a better son, his intentions to be a better self are conspicuous by their absence. Did his doting father know that his son had smuggled drugs, putting the family’s security at stake in a foreign land? Where were the confessions?

Even while in jail, he leaks the radio station details to his biographer and the audience is expected to be both gullible and hare-brained. Where is Sanju’s moral compass? Where does the buck stop? What his on-screen wife terms as harmless flirting, is tantamount to making a pass in common parlance. But then, Sanju is not common – he is that well-intended human being who was taken for a ride by everyone. In his quest to tell his side of the story, the ever so courageous and candid Munnabhai has come across as an insecure celebrity desperate for public approval.

If Sanjay Dutt really believed in his father’s third ‘ustaad’ i.e. “Kuch toh log kahenge… (People will always have something to gossip about)”, he wouldn’t have sold his story so selectively. One is forced to believe that Sanjay Dutt’s conscience is guilty, which forced him to hide so much and tell so little.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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