It is an understatement to say that Sanju, the biopic based on the life of hugely popular actor Sanjay Dutt, is "the most awaited" Bollywood release in a while, and it ticks all the boxes.
Having built an impressive body of work together such as Munna Bhai MBBS and 3 Idiots, director Rajkumar Hirani and producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra are known for their remarkable emotional storytelling. And this one stays endearing from start to finish.
The movie is named after Sanjay, but it is more a tribute to his parents, Sunil and Nargis Dutt. It is a film about a father and son’s awkward and loving relationship, of true friendship and an ordinary man’s struggle with his extraordinary legacy and very bad choices.
Actors are revered to the point that people forget they probably have the same demons as any one of us. This film is a very candid narration of Sanjay’s insecure youth, followed by his unfortunate entanglement with the law.
In 1993, he was arrested under India’s most unforgiving terror law related to the Mumbai bombings in the same year. Though acquitted of terrorism crimes, he was still charged with possession of a terrorist weapon.
Much of Sanju’s story is an inside account of an upright and humble father’s trials to make things right for his son. Paresh Rawal plays the role of Sunil Dutt without being highly strung, even in the most dramatic situations, true to how the senior Dutt always conducted himself.
Another relationship the film really delves into is Sanju’s friendship with Kamlesh, played very endearingly by actor Vicky Kaushal. He stands out as the loyal friend who will always give it to you straight.
Then there is Sanjay himself. Sorry, I mean Ranbir Kapoor portraying the role of Sanjay. His mannerisms are so uncanny – especially as the older Sanjay – that you can forget it is Kapoor, and that is a true adulation of his acting skills in the film.
Throughout the promotions of the movie, director Hirani maintained that this is not a movie to glorify Sanjay, but to tell a great story. He does stand true to that statement. His direction is very matter of fact in relation to the incidents, but very thorough with the feelings expressed by the main characters.
Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt is brilliant. Other supporting actors, Anushka Sharma, Dia Mirza and Sonam Kapoor, do their job, but this really is Kapoor and Kaushal’s film all the way.
While it is based on Sanjay’s life story, do not expect to indulge in the movie star persona too much and just watch it for its story and performances.
Let’s not deny our obsession with the private lives of famous people, and consider this film a rare insight into their human side. Most of all, enjoy Sanjay shaking a leg with a very dapper-looking Kapoor in the end credits.