Fawning admiration of Bollywood’s Sanjay Dutt the downfall of ‘Sanju’

Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor waves during the teaser launch of his Indian biographical drama Hindi film 'Sanju', based on the life of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, in Mumbai on April 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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Fawning admiration of Bollywood’s Sanjay Dutt the downfall of ‘Sanju’

CHENNAI: It is never easy to create a biopic about a celebrity who is still alive, but that isn’t the only reason Rajkumar Hirani’s “Sanju” fails to hit the mark. Hirani — who is known for “Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.,” “Three Idiots” and “PK” — appears to be in awe of his subject, actor Sanjay Dutt, who was once labelled the “bad boy of Bollywood.” The son of illustrious parents, actors Sunil Dutt and Nargis, Sanjay (who was endearingly called Sanju at home) entangled himself in a web of drugs and women before he was convicted of possessing guns supplied by extremists who staged the 1993 bombings in Mumbai in 2006.

Hirani, who co-wrote the screenplay, however, refuses to blame his protagonist. As he tells us in his movie — and as Sanjay (played by Ranbir Kapoor) narrates to his wide-eyed, besotted biographer, Winnie Diaz (played by Anushka Sharma in a hideous wig) — Sanjay was supposedly a victim of circumstance. It is only his wife, Manyata Dutt (Dia Mirza), who injects a bit of balance into the story by saying that her husband had made “bad choices.”

The film leads viewers through a winding checklist of why the wayward actor cannot possibly take responsibility for his actions, including his mother Nargis’ (Manisha Koirala) cancer and his girlfriend Ruby’s (Sonam Kapoor) decision to walk away from the relationship. Drug peddlers and communal violence are blamed for the actor’s decline into increasingly questionable behavior, with little responsibility laid at his feet. It’s hard to swallow and bitter at best in a country where Bollywood actors are sometimes perceived to have been unfairly absolved of their crimes.

In the end, the press is blamed for Sanjay’s travails: It convicted him even before the judicial process could be completed. While he is now free, having spent 23 years in and out of jail, Hirani’s hagiographic admiration leaves the viewer with no real answer as to why the actor associated with unsavory characters in the first place.

With its largely disappointing cast — barring Ranbir, who melts seamlessly into character, and Vicky Kaushal as Sanju’s friend, Kamli, who brings radiant humor to the film — this puppy-eyed look at a Bollywood legend falls disappointingly short of the mark.


Film Review: Line of Descent is a dramatic tale of crime and atonement 

Updated 51 min 40 sec ago
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Film Review: Line of Descent is a dramatic tale of crime and atonement 

CHENNAI: Cinema has often told stories about crime families. Hollywood’s “The Godfather” series, or Scott Cooper’s 2015 “Black Mass” with an unrecognizable Johnny Depp, or even Bollywood’s bloody thriller “Titli” about a Delhi carjacking family, which first screened at Cannes in 2014. 

The latest addition to the genre is writer-director Rohit Karn Batra’s “Line of Descent” which premiered on Sunday at the European Film Market, currently running alongside the Berlin Film Festival. This movie is also set in Delhi, India’s crime capital, where some families have built unimaginable wealth through nefarious land deals, extortion, kidnapping and murder. 

An aged patriarch, Bharath Sinha (essayed by Hindi cinema’s legendary villain, Prem Chopra), heads a family of three sons — Prithvi (Ronit Roy), Siddharth (Neeraj Kabi) and Suraj (Ali Haji). Equally at home in Delhi’s seedy underbelly as in some of the poshest enclaves and among India’s elite, this is a clan with many conflicting faces, unified on the outside, but conflicted within by division, vice and repentance. 

Bharath’s notoriety as a criminal gives way to remorse and shame for the legacy he will leave behind. His death, and the bequesting of all his ill-gotten wealth to his eldest son Prithvi, creates a storm among the brothers, with Siddharth demanding his share so that he may partner with an arms-dealer, Charu (Brendan Fraser). When things begin to get out of hand, a cop named Raghav (Abhay Deol), is drawn into the mix, and asked to go undercover. 

“Line of Descent” is tightly and imaginatively scripted. Its exposition of organized crime is masterful, and some brilliant performances, especially from Deol, Roy and Kabi add a dash of class to an otherwise gritty enterprise. A compelling dramatic arc is established from the start in this fast-paced thriller, and the themes of guilt and atonement permeate throughout the movie, with both coming home to roost for the Sinha family in a touching final sequence.