This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Vigniche’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Okay, Sanjay Dutt had a horrible tryst with DRUGS and is not a TERRORIST. We get the point. Now, give me a good film...
The trailer of Sanju that created nationwide hysteria was a marketing genius, if you look at it in retrospect. It really had all the muscle to draw you into watching a film that is not half as good, largely thanks to the elaborate gimmick that was Ranbir Kapoor's cosplay as (formerly) disgraced Bollywood actor, Sanjay Dutt. Sadly, the film has no more trick up its sleeve, courtesy of some of the laziest writing you would encounter in all of cinema.
First things first - Ranbir Kapoor is on song, playing Dutt with as much intensity and conviction as humanly possible. The desperation in his eyes is a by-product of not just an accurate performance but also Kapoor's own longing for a solid hit since 2013, you would fear. Good thing is now, he is an actor possessed, willing to go to any lengths to come of age as a Bollywood superstar. This time, he has checked all boxes as an actor with an epic performance that people will find hard to forget. However, after Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar and Anurag Basu, Rajkumar Hirani is the latest big-time Bollywood filmmaker to fall into the Hall of Shame that failed Kapoor.
Sanju is easily Hirani's worst outing yet - as a writer, director and editor. He creates the film with so much hangover from his previous films, it is only natural to feel some uncomfortable deja-vu yourself. Break the film down and you can see each of its self-absorbed scenes seeing itself as a masterpiece in melodrama. But, the sad truth is that there is so much tonal inconsistency not just within the film but inside almost every scene that the viewer would find extremely difficult to comprehend and reciprocate the exchange of emotions. For example, a tragicomic scene between Sanju and his love interest, Ruby (Sonam Kapoor) is brought down by Sonam Kapoor's incompetence when the other Kapoor is busy pulling the performance of a lifetime. In another bizarre scene, Sanju's wife, Maanyata (Dia Mirza) casually intervenes when he is about to commit suicide as if it is no big deal. And don't get me started with all those scenes having Winnie Diaz (Anushka Sharma), whose dumbness is an irritating reminder for how one should not take this biopic seriously at any given point. A contrived plot device that lacks any personality whatsoever, she is only there to bully the other characters into screaming exposition all the time. The only narrative choice that works to some extent is the relationship between Sanju and his best friend, Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal). Kaushal gives Kapoor a run for his money with his acting chops here but even that is marred during the second half when his character turns into the embodiment of the misunderstanding common man who judged the all-too-innocent Dutt too soon.
The shot-to-shot, scene-to-scene, sequence-to-sequence transition in Sanju is strangely abysmal, especially for Hirani, who is an experienced editor himself. The off-putting drama, poor plot construction, some blinding lighting and soapy background music, all lack the finesse and balance that Hirani possessed till his last feature, PK (2014). And topping it all is the blatantly spineless propaganda, only serving the purpose of cleansing the image of a controversial figure, that too, by conveniently ignoring or speeding past all the grey areas of his life.
The politics of this film is so immature and misguiding. The film starts off with a scene disguised as a 'cool' disclaimer that Sanju is no saint and this film won't turn him into one either. Then, it sets out to do anything but. It's a cowardly blame-game, where Dutt's drug addiction was, of course, not his fault but his friend's (Jim Sarbh). Dutt's links with terrorists and the underworld was because he loved his father too much. Even his self-admitted womanizing temptations are reduced to one dialogue and a sexless scene. So, the real Dutt is still in the confines of image protection and diplomacy. This is a biopic so out of place, the misplaced light-heartedness of such grim content is the slightest of its woes.
Now, will the real Sanjay Dutt please stand up?