The first impression after watching Sanju : its a good movie, not a great biography.
When we say biography the top few movies which come to mind are :
- Raging Bull
- Wolf of Wall Street.
While there are many more, the reason I chose these three was because they have elements which are seen in Sanju Physical transformation in Raging Bull, the mental conflict in Aviator and the rapid decline into deprivation and degradation in the WoWS. Well the good news is Sanju has elements of these movies quite evident in its narrative.
Closer home, some of the notable biographies are :
- Dirty Picture
- Paan Singh Tomar ( highly under rated)
Again, there are many more to the list, but the reason I mention these three is because each of them showed the character progression with touch of a negative chord , either circumstantial or deliberate. Sanju has elements of a negative chord in the character in the narrative as well. So then what is the problem with Sanju?
Frankly,the movie paints an unidirectional character sketch, mostly portraying Sanju as the victim and cleverly gliding through critical flaws like betraying his best friends love interest with a touch of humor. Or the fact that his wife remained a mute spectator, expressionless, as he confesses to the story writer of his 350 escapades.
Sanju is clearly pissed off with the media as also suggested in the song during the end credits, yet isn’t it ironical that he chose the same media to tell his side of the story? My point is, if you are “that” misunderstood and misrepresented, well then one should stay away, shouldn’t they? That said, if you change the lens and watch Sanju as a regular movie instead of a biopic, it will have a very different connotation.
Raju Hirani plays it safe , and sugar coats or spoon feeds most of the dialogues for mass consumption, underlying message being, the more people understand a scene the better money it will generate, why worry about too many subtleties? What point will a movie serve if it is laced with thousands of subtleties which go completely unnoticed by the larger audience? “Sunset or Sunrise , this audience doesn’t care much ” dialogue is apt representation of the mass intelligentsia as perceived by Raju Hirani an company. I am not saying it is right or wrong , but that seems how they think, and have made the movie accordingly.
And so one itches to see a 360 degree view of a character in a biopic. Raju might contest that the movie did show self deprecation, regret and the dark side of the character. Yet, the way it was shown was a deliberate nudge towards “likeability” or “sympathy” for the character, while the treatment desired was stark and neutral. Let the audience decide whether to forgive Sanju’s womanizing or let loose a chuckle.
But then that is when you are watching the movie with your biopic lens. The moment you change it to a regular movie, then the reaction is totally different. I think it is a typical good movie. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with playing to gallery. Nothing wrong with explaining scenes to the audience to cater to a mass audience….just don’t call it a biography then.
Paresh Rawal does a spectacular job with the restraint he brings to the frame,as he brings the gravitas of a stellar father, a towering personality, yet his strong Gujarati accent flatters to deceive.Think of the Late Sunil Dutt , and you see a strong personality with a rustic tinge to it. So you needed someone who carried the “punjabiness” of it all. It required a bit of Dharmendra – ness , perhaps , but to be fair who else would’ve pulled this role off? Pankaj Kapur? Perhaps Mukesh Chabra could conjure up someone from his now legendary casting coupe. That said, the father son sequences are some of the best highlights of the movie.
Ranbir pulls out all stops in getting deep into the mannerisms of Sanjay Dutt, and has all the bells and whistles in place. So there is not much to debate or discuss and that is a good thing. He has been trying hard to own his characters from very early on and slides into a role quite effortlessly.
Vicky Kaushal cast in a stereotypical Gujjubhai role does the best with what he is given, pulling off some strong emotional scenes. He shows versatility, vulnerability and verve in his portrayal of best buddy with consummate ease. The scenes where he is shown to standby a failing friend standout as his best work.
Rest of the star-cast whether it is Dia Mirza ,Manisha Koirala or Anushka Sharma , are pretty much cosmetic , their characters are mere guest appearances and don’t warrant any more attention.
Finally, I wonder if Anurag Kashyap had directed this biopic would be like Dev.D dark or what if Mani Ratnam directed this, would the result be the same? The obvious answer is no, but the tricky question is would it be any better or worse? I guess we will never know. Though it might be a good idea to ask them how they would direct this movie, what new angle or flavor would they bring to the screen?
In conclusion, to call it a great biopic would be a bit distant, isn’t it? They tried! It is certainly a good entertaining movie, one for the masses.
Sanju ? ! .
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