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

Posted by Gunja Kapoor in Culture-Vulture
July 12, 2018

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.