Several squares of photos of close-up of man's face and the word Sanju

To begin with let me give a disclaimer. This review is going to be really hard for me to do. I ought to admit that I really like the producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra's filmmaking sensibilities. When a movie stays with you for almost 30 years and if you still feel like you haven't gotten over it, like his film Parinda, then I guess you really like the filmmaker. If the only movie that you went to the theatre on two consecutive days, 3 Idiots, is made by the same filmmaker, then you really know that you really, really like this filmmaker.

My second reason is that I find it difficult to review someone's life. "Sanju," showing at AMC Village 18, is a movie based on a Indian actor Sanjay Dutt. Even though it is touted as a biography, it revolves only around two major life-altering experiences in the actor's life: his addiction to drugs and his legal battle for carrying illegal weapon. 

How can I judge someone's life? This is not a figment of someone's imagination. All the things that are shown in the movie actually happened. The movie is about all the choices that Sanjay Dutt made in his personal life and the consequences. Who am I to say if they are right or wrong? I have not walked in his shoes, so it would be tremendously obnoxious of me to review the quality of the story.

One thing I can surely say, that whether you agree with his choices or not, this story is about tenacity, pure grit, and a “never say die” attitude. As is shown in the movie, it is Sanjay Dutt who approached people to write his biography/make the movie. In his shoes I probably would have done the same. Getting labeled as a "terrorist" – an accusation was later withdrawn by the Indian court of law – is no doubt a life shattering thing to happen. Seeing his family members crumble under that burden, wondering how his very young kids will be treated, must have certainly eaten him up. Thus, if he chose to put his side of the story across it is completely understandable.

I saw the trailer and it hooked me. It is actor Ranbir Kapoor who portrays Sanjay Dutt, who pulled me in for a first day, first show. He is phenomenal in the trailer and he consistently maintains that throughout the movie. Not only just acting, but he has taken great effort to modulate his voice and physicality to look and become Sanju for this movie. His efforts have certainly paid off.

If Ranbir pulled me in the theatre, then Vicky Kaushal kept me hooked to the point that even after several hours I am still amazed by his acting. Sadly enough nobody is talking much about Vicky and the role of Kamlesh that he portrayed. It's like there is a tie for gold and people are only acknowledging one winner and sort of ignoring the other. Can we please acknowledge talent in general and not run only behind the cool and popular kids in the class, be it Ranbir here or Alia in Raazi?

A special mention is needed for Paresh Rawal for playing Dutt Saab or Mr. Sunil Dutt, Sanju's father. Again a talented actor, however it felt like he could not completely get over his Gujarati accent. Jim Sarbh stood out as drug peddler as well. Manisha Koirala, Sonam Kapoor and Diya Mirza provide able but very limited support just like all other Raju Hirani movies.

It is interesting for me that Sanjay Dutt has been with 350 women, ranging from prostitutes, to one-night stands, to lovers, girlfriends and wives. He of course had a mother, has two sisters and a daughter in her twenties. Not one woman was given enough screen time to show how she affected Sanju. How come the trio Vidhu Vinod Chopra (producer), Raj Kumar Hirani (Director, Editor and co-writer) and Abhijat Joshi (writer) did not feel like exploring the impact of women on his life? It is impossible to live a life and not have the opposite sex play an influential role in our lives.

You guys have set the bar very high. You three have consistently shown us audience that not only are you tremendously talented but also have a unique way of portraying life on the movie screen. That is why we expect a class act from you. What can I say, you have spoiled us. Your approach is sensitive and filled with warmth, and therefore it is so difficult to accept your myopic view of life.

All the way from 2003 when Munna Bhai MBBS released, there is not once that you have shown a strong woman character in your movies and Sanju just takes the cake because we all know that several women have created a lasting and life altering impact on his life! From 2003, be it Dr. Asthana in Munna Bhai MBBS, where he comes to the first day of class with a group of six renowned doctors, and you have shown five of them to be men, to 3 Idiots where all of them are men, to even the extra terestrial PK – also a man!

Do you guys seriously think there are no good female doctors in India? Or do girls/women not go to engineering colleges? Or are other planets out there devoid of feminine energy? Why couldn't Kareena Kapoor play one of the idiots in your movie? Or Kangana Ranaut, Vidya Balan or Kajol play a PK? When it happens consistently for 15 years in all the movies that you have made, one feels the need to ask this question. Women in your movies are mostly props with miniscule work to do. Why is that?

I do believe that I have no right to comment on the happenings in Sanju's life and therefore the story. But the movie and the generic experience I can analyze. The movie did not feel seamless to me. It felt that the makers had lot of material to cover even in the two areas that they did and so they barely touched the highlights. It felt like instead of writing a detaiedl essay answer on the test, they instead opted out to write the answer using bullet points.

For example, why was Sanjay really angry at his father? What was the trigger that got him on drugs? They barely touched upon his lack of confidence. Did his childhood incidences play a role in him losing his confidence? What was the build-up to him taking drugs? Also on one hand they showed that Sanjay was very reluctant dealing with the mafia, but then on other hand the makers did not delve into the impact the threats caused on Sanjay and his family. It was yet again swept by and his actions did not feel justified. A man who was reluctant to deal with the mafia should be really petrified to get their help to procure the A-K 56 and bullets. However, in the movie Sanju didn't appear that scared. Because of the rushed approach one was still feeling hungry to know more and in depth.  Could it be the case of too much material to cover and thus they rushed through it or is it a case of ebbing creative juices? During "PK" there were faint signs of this ebbing and in Sanju it was pretty evident. 

Either which way this trio is extremely talented and I am sure that they will regroup, evaluate and soar back to the standards that they themselves have set.

This movie is to be watched if you need a dose of tenacity, encouragement, and an attitude of fight ‘til the end. This movie strips Sanjay of his stardom and shows Sanjay Dutt, the human being, and thus satisfies the ever present curiosity of how these stars are behind the close doors. It surely reiterates the fact that at the end of the day we all are mere mortals. This movie is to be enjoyed for the brilliant performances put forth by Ranbir and Vicky.

I give this movie three stars. One for Sanjay's “never say die” attitude, second one for Ranbir's acting and all the effort that went into transforming himself to become Sanju and the last one for Vicky, for doing such a stupendous job.

Go watch it, I am sure you will get a new insight into the world of glitz and glam.

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