Sanju was only a nostalgic whiff

Life is a kaleidoscope of elusive happenings. There comes a phase when eyes mist over harking back to the days lived under its allotted shadows and the heart walks down the memory lane, scrapping the dust off the bygone faces. These are momentary spells of nostalgia. They fade away in the midst of noises that life has in store for everyone. But then again, not very often though, comes a moment to evoke the past full of delicate old scents, carrying images blurry but fine enough to make us measure how much length of time we have left behind trailing us. And Sanju, the Sanjay Dutt biopic, has provided exactly the moment for me, maybe only me. Otherwise, the Ranbir starrer, is a mélange of flawed and feeble jottings knit together to redeem a supposedly scandalous character through a narrative analogous to a pot with a handle but no spout to let the coffee run through it.

Interestingly and much to Sanjay Dutt’s disappointment, he has never been my perennial favourite (as if he will care!) but was always a special thread between what I used to like and what I really admire in the present. Being a 90’s-kid, I had a chance of witnessing the controversies about his criminal possession of weapons and alleged involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Myself an obsessive audio cassette collector, I vividly remember when the very storm of controversy was lousing up his career and his movies were being shelved, the postcard dealers in the locality would put only his photographs on display and every second Indian songs-containing audio cassette had Mr. Dutt striking a pose in a photo on its cover. Notoriety or sensation? I am not at liberty to comment on it but via Sanju have certainly flooded back those telltale feelings that I lost for the sake of solutions necessary for the puzzles of existence. The almost-forgotten, debatable buzz –reactivated now –about Sanjay Dutt, the gestures and body language projected masterfully by Ranbir, those weary, bloodshot eyes, the typical shrugging of the muscular shoulders and that cigarette puffing (please stay away from this) are all reminiscent of the star whom the movie buffs of my generation would love to look up to. Kudos to the freakishly brilliant Ranbir for presenting what he is capable of and getting under Sanjay’s skin with fantastic ease. His ability to maintain the individuality even in the plurality of dissimilar versions is probably one of the best on-screen works of juggling multiple roles. I bet this guy is a raw talent and this one isright there on par with his other performances as in Barfi and Rockstar.

As Raj Kumar Heerani is the director, the movie was bound to be another tear-jerker with the shades of light-hearted comedy like all his previous cine ventures. One has to admit he has the knack of extracting tears and laughter in one short, and Sanju we knew right from the release of its trailer would be an enticing thrill, garnering appreciation from the spectators. But has it really met the hype? No, Raju, not this time. You told every piece sentimentally and forgot to please the viewer dispassionate in me.

Let’s, straightaway, be frank about the reality that Bollywood mostly produces trash or something occasionally good and great on rare occasions. I believe a distinction should always be made between what is entertaining and what should really be deemed great. When one quits watching flicks being made in our surroundings and the eyes adjust to the likes of Daniel Day Lewis –the only triple-Oscar winner in the male category for the lead role –in Lincoln or him as the money-hungry David Plainview in There will be Blood, Marlon Brando in the God Father, Robert de Niro in Raging Bull, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman and the cannibalistic Anthony Hopkins in the lovably frightening the Silence of the Lambs – mind you I could cite some other classics too such as ¬the English Patient, Shawshank Redemption, Ben Affleck’s Argo, etc.–¬, every film-making recipe grounded on glitz and glam screams for verisimilitude and plot power and then the consciousness of the label ‘greatness’ begins to seep into us.

Most Bollywood movies kick off with its first half floundering instead of ripening to attain a fitting ending, not necessarily a happy one, and so does Sanju. In the first few minutes of the film, shocking earthy humour, the bawdy distortion of Shakespeare’s name in a pointless attempt to cause hilarity, over-exaggerated melodramatics with lurid colours in the background, and then the look of the London-based Anushka–in the curly wig, wearing blue-coloured contact lens, smiling wryly, and giving us the impression as if she were J.K. Rowling – open up the flurry of cracks to foresee how the storytelling should reach its climax. Sorry, Virat, she must take a leaf out of your book and learn how to drive, pull, hook and cut the dialogues on the front as well as back foot. Though there were many anecdotes connected with Sanjay’s rehabilitation and his being a slave to drug abuse, and Khalnayak and Vastav where he had essayed the genuine Baba kinds of roles, they could have pepped up the script if sandwiched without plenty of theatrics or with an economy.

On the whole, excluding numbers (around 2.95 billion in 12 days and counting) at the ticket window, the director could not quite infuse brain cells into it. One cannot get away with making fiction or non-fiction look fiction all the time. Not more than a mass entertaining film, the biopic should go down as a joint favour handed to the actors of two different ages. For Sanjay, it has somehow cleansed the slur on his image; for Ranbir, it has ended his droughty run at the box office –nothing for the viewers except for the protagonist’s acting which has already been titled ‘freakishly brilliant’. However, I am happy for both of them.

The author is a blogger and freelance writer.

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