We’ve all heard that moviemakers legitimise factual inaccuracies and biases in their movies in the name of “freedom of expression”.
Some of Bollywood’s A-list directors are exceptional in this regard. They just won’t stand criticism no matter how erroneous, distorted and bigoted their movies might be in reality. “Sanju” cannot be spared from the same criticism.
The only reason I decided to watch the movie was not Sanjay Dutt’s supposedly ‘compelling story’ but actually because of Rajkumar Hirani’s reputation as a brilliant storyteller. Ranbir Kapoor, who surprisingly appeared pretty convincing as Dutt in the teaser, was another reason why I bought tickets for the movie.
Undoubtedly, the movie had some stellar performances by some of India’s finest actors which included the likes of Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Anushka Sharma, Manisha Koirala, Dia Mirza, Boman Irani and Sonam Kapoor. But what really bothered me was the underlying intent of the movie.
Prior to watching it, I was convinced that I was in for some serious brainwashing. If the movie is seen strictly from the typical-Indian-viewer’s perspective, there’s no denying that it clearly is a wholesome entertainer. Despite this, it lets you down on several fronts.
To put it bluntly, Hirani seems to have clearly lost his touch in the Sanjay Dutt-biopic and also seems to have sold his soul, as everything he depicted clearly befitted Bollywood’s propaganda factory image.
The movie isn’t just an attempt at correcting Dutt’s image as a terrorist but it goes much beyond that. Here are some of my observations:
Firstly, the movie does not blame him for his drug addiction. Instead, it completely puts the blame on his drug-peddler friend named Zubin Mistry (played by Jim Sarbh) who, by the way, was a fictional character.
Secondly, the movie also conveniently excuses him for having sex with his best friend’s fianceé (with a comical instrumental music playing in the background). Dutt wasn’t given a share in the blame, the woman was labelled ‘characterless’ instead.
Thirdly, the movie also gave him a free pass for illegally possessing assault rifles and shifted the blame onto some Hindu radicals for their death threats. The threats, they said, ‘forced’ him into possessing illegal firearms.
Fourthly, the makers went on to blame the media alone for damaging Dutt’s reputation in the society. What was Dutt even expecting in return for keeping strong ties with Mumbai’s underworld? Love and appreciation?
Their double-standards were also evident in their media-bashing climax song, a line of which said, “Achi khaasi life ka circus ho gaya; Baba bolta hai abhi, bas ho gaya.” This was utterly ironic considering the movie made absolutely no reference on Dutt’s ‘achi khaasi’ life!
How easily did the makers convince us that the world conspired against Dutt for absolutely no fault of his? Whether we should really allow ourselves to be the victims of this propaganda in exchange for some cheap entertainment is a question we all must ask ourselves.
After “Azhar” and “Sanju”, Bollywood seems to have found its brand new formula for adulterated biopics that aim to achieve massive box-office glory. It is just a matter of time before we’re handed a ‘Sallu’ and yet another criminal will be given some serious image rectification at the expense of our precious time, hard-earned money and loss of intellect.