Sanjay Dutt’s life has been far from ordinary, even by Bollywood’s standards where the bar for aberrant behavior is truly high. Somewhat of an enfant terrible, Dutt grew up among celebrity parents. Sent away to boarding school which he despised, and with an over-indulgent mother and a disciplinarian father, he grew up confused and under-appreciated. He took refuge in drugs but was able to break the habit and rise to stardom, only to hit the depths of despair due long legal battle and criminal conviction. So bad that he preferred death over incarceration. However, he is also lucky to have had people who have stood by him through thick and thin. He was heartily accepted by audiences after his prison stint. With his long association with powerful filmmakers, he is lucky to have got an opportunity to tell his side of the story without the cacophony of news peddlers.
This film is about two aspects of Sanjay’s life – his addiction and his arrest on TADA charges. It is not an introspection of Dutt’s bad choices but a rather straight telling of the events. If there’s a spin, it is for Sanjay’s benefit. Given that the late Sunil Dutt stood by his son like a rock in those trying years, the film is as much about Dutt Sr. as it is about Sanjay. His liaisons with (many) women are mentioned fleetingly. Perhaps, talking about them would have caused trouble, many of whom are very much around in the film industry. Rajkumar Hirani in his trademark style, finds humor even in banal situation. The tu badhiya, mai bhi badhiya song is a case in point. However, he should go easy on the double entendre. The scene where Sanjay goes to his girlfriend’s house to pick up liquor is cringe worthy.
Ranbir Kapoor was the best choice to play the titular character. Apart from the striking similarities in looks and mannerisms that he brings to the film, he has played the character with empathy; you don’t hate him even when he sells the mangalsutra for drugs and in its place, puts the toilet seat around his fiancée neck. He can get away with saying he has slept with around 350 women excluding prostitutes. A little more cocky or unrestrained portrayal, and these incidents would have turned the audience’s perception in the wrong direction. Ranbir strikes the perfect balance.
Paresh Rawal does not remind of Sunil Dutt but provides to the character the gravitas that star was well known for, whether in films or politics. Sanjay’s relationship with Kalpesh (Vicky Kaushal) will reaffirm his image of a man who is led by his heart. Vicky surprisingly goes overboard in a few scenes. Diya Mirza as his wife Manyata has precious little to do in a biopic focused on the father and the son. Manisha Koirala still looks beautiful.
This film will no doubt go a long way in endearing Sanjay to the masses. I also can’t help but assume that Sanjay’s friends are doing their bit to turn public opinion in his favour. At the end of the day, the film tells an engaging story of a man portrayed brilliantly by a talented actor. As a viewer, what more can one ask?