Sanju is a 2020 Indian biographical film directed by Rajkumar Hirani and written by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi. It was jointly produced by Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra under the banners Rajkumar Hirani Films and Vinod Chopra Films respectively. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor as Indian actor Sanjay Dutt, and the story follows through various putlocker movies stages of Dutt’s life. The film features an ensemble cast with Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Manisha Koirala, Dia Mirza, Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Jim Sarbh playing pivotal roles.
In a conversation with Hirani, Dutt shared anecdotes from his life, which the former found intriguing and prompted him to make a film based on Dutt’s life. It was titled Sanju after the nickname Dutt’s mother Nargis used to call him. Principal photography began in January 2017 and was completed by January 2018. The film’s soundtrack was composed by Rohan-Rohan and Vikram Montrose with A. R. Rahman as a guest composer. Fox Star Studios acquired the distribution rights of the film.
Sanju was released worldwide on 29 June 2018. It received mostly positive reviews from critics, who praised Kapoor’s performance as Dutt but were divided on the performances of the rest of the cast and the film’s accuracy. The film registered the highest opening for any film released in India in 2018.
D. Triparthi, a biographer, attempts to write a biography on Sanjay Dutt, comparing him with Mahatma Gandhi. An angry Dutt has him thrown out. The court delivers its verdict regarding the 1993 Bombay bombings and sentences Dutt to jail for violating Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. Manyata Dutt approaches Winnie Diaz, a London-based writer, to write Dutt’s biography to present his story to the public. Although unwilling at first, Winnie is threatened by Zubin Mistry, a drug lord to not write the biography, which, on the contrary, intrigues her and compels her to do so. Winnie first interviews Dutt, and his life in early years is revealed in a flashback.
The son of Sunil Dutt and Nargis, Sanjay’s father plans to launch him with the film Rocky to help Sanjay establish an acting career in Bollywood. Upset with his father’s decision, Sanjay is encouraged by his friend Mistry to try drugs for the first time. Sanjay discovers that his mother Nargis is suffering from cancer and taken to New York for treatment. This sparks his descent into alcoholism and drug-addiction. Sanjay meets Kamlesh Kapasi in New York, and they become quick friends. His drug addiction eventually results in the break-up with his girlfriend Ruby. Nargis passes away 3 days before the release of Rocky. Sanjay agrees to attend a rehabilitation centre in the United States, and eventually recovers.
The later part of Dutt’s life is narrated by his friend Kamlesh. In the 1990s, Sanjay has built a muscular body, inciting comparisons with Muhammad Ali. After the Babri Masjid demolition, he acquires three AK-56 rifles to protect his father and sister Priya Dutt. A series of bombings occur in Bombay shortly herafter. Sanjay is arrested in 1993 for possession of illegal arms for which he is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years. then after completing it, is released in February 2016.
Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay “Sanju” Dutt
Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt, Sanju’s father
Vicky Kaushal as Kamlesh “Kamli” Kanhaiyalal Kapasi
Manisha Koirala as Nargis, Sanju’s mother
Dia Mirza as Manyata Dutt, Sanju’s wife
Sonam Kapoor as Ruby
Anushka Sharma as Winnie Diaz, a biographer
Jim Sarbh as Zubin Mistry
Karishma Tanna as Pinky
Boman Irani as Ruby’s father
Sayaji Shinde as Bandu Dada
Aditi Gautam as Priya Dutt, Sanju’s sister
Ashwin Mushran as an event manager
Anjan Srivastav as a minister
Prakash Belawadi as a newspaper editor
Mahesh Manjrekar as himself
Tabu as herself
Arshad Warsi as himself
Sanjay Dutt as himself
Director Rajkumar Hirani was first prompted to create a film based on Sanjay Dutt’s life by the latter’s wife Manyata Dutt in a casual conversation, an offer he refused, reasoning that “Sanju’s world is very different from my world”.] In an interview with Daily News & Analysis, Hirani revealed what eventually prompted him to create a film based on Sanjay Dutt’s life: “He was lonely. Manyata was in hospital and he used to go there and then come home to an empty house. So, he was just venting, speaking straight from the heart. And, he started giving me anecdotes that were just gems for a filmmaker”. In regards to gaining resources in constructing the film, Hirani said, “… we sat for a crazy amount of time and recorded everything… I also met others who knew him – journalists, cops, relatives and friends. I felt there was a movie that should be told.” In an interview with DNA After Hrs, Hirani confirmed that the film was named Sanju after a lot of deliberation as Nargis, Sanjay’s mother, used to call him ‘Sanju’.
Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra was not a part of the project when Hirani initially approached him to produce the film. At first, Chopra was of the opinion that “it was hogwash… but when we started researching all that he’s said – from the 308 girlfriends he had to how he begged on the streets of US for the money to buy a bus ticket – we realised that everything he had told us was true!”. Hirani had a pre-condition with Dutt that if the latter requested to change any lines or scenes, he “would not make it”, upon which Dutt allowed Hirani to make the film in his accord. He was okay with Hirani not glorifying him in the film. Hirani showed aspects of Dutt’s life that the public would not have known, such as “what was happening in the Dutt household when Sanju was accused of the crime? What was his father going through? What was happening with his sisters? How were his friends reacting? Later I met his sisters, Namrata and Priya, brother-in-law Kumar Gaurav and US-based friend Paresh Ghelani.” Hirani stated, “The film is not about his romance. It has primarily two tracks, one is the gun story and the other is the drugs story and how he fought these two battles.”
Speaking about Dutt’s journey, Kapoor revealed in an interview with Filmfare that the biopic will reach out to the audience by teaching them something. He stated that “It will talk about human flaws, the emotional father-son story, his relationship with his best friend, with the women in his life. It’s emotional, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s bittersweet. The youth have a lot to learn from his mistakes.” He also confirmed that “it’s not a propaganda film” intending to glorify Dutt. Kapoor also revealed that for him the hardest aspect of playing the role was to give himself the confidence to go ahead with the project. For him, Sanjay Dutt is “a flawed but a wonderful person… a pop icon” and that’s why it “was scary.”
In an interview with Rajeev Masand, Hirani disclosed that the story-telling procedure was “challenging as it’s not a story of an achiever” as most biopics are based on a heroic personality, yet Dutt is known for his tragedies and losses. He noted that “you can’t really tamper” and that the main scripting challenge was fitting “a very anecdotal story in a structured format”. Writer Abhijat Joshi also revealed that there was no “deliberate” attempt to make Dutt’s character sympathetic to the audience. Instead the team realised having listened to all the anecdotes conveyed by Dutt that it’s a “very engaging, incredibly fascinating” story based on a “conflicted person, a flawed person” who “deserved empathy”. Hirani then confirmed that he has “put out the truth” which includes “good things and bad things”. In another interview, Hirani also revealed that like his other films, Sanju would also deliver a social message: “there is the father-son story, a friendship and one is a question mark. For the last one, you’ll have to see the film. Hirani also revealed that he did initially get “attracted to all the anecdotes [that Dutt was conveying]” but soon “realized it was not enough – we had to be able to string it all together.” which led him to come to the conclusion that “people need to know is his gun story, because it is important. If there is no gun story, there is no biopic” which then in turn formed the “spine” of the film.
Actor Ranbir Kapoor was Hirani’s first choice to play Dutt’s character. Hirani stated, “I first thought of Ranbir and went straight to him and I can tell you, we were right.”. He also stated that he thought Kapoor is a fantastic actor and “at the perfect age.” He further revealed the similarities and differences between Dutt and Kapoor stating that “they have lived the life of actors all through. Ranbir is not someone from outside the industry who came here to be a hero. In a sense, it was easier for me to see him as Sanju.” He also revealed that Ranbir Kapoor worked very hard to get the correct physicality, spending days watching videos “to strike the right balance” Initially Kapoor was reluctant to portray the role. However, he agreed once “he saw the angle of the story” and that the story “broke certain notions I had about him “. Kapoor also revealed that his initial “hesitation” about playing Dutt’s role was that he is “still so relevant today” and is a “superstar” who is “working in movies today… has lots to achieve and lots to do”. Chopra was also reluctant to produce the film with Kapoor in the lead role, as he believed Ranveer Singh would’ve been a better fit to Dutt’s part by having the “flamboyance, the emotional depth as well as the ability to change himself completely to play Sanjay Dutt.”. Chopra however, “had to kind of eat words” once shooting began and he witnessed Kapoor’s capabilities playing Dutt. Kapoor responded to Chopra’s comments by stating that he was “very happy” to be a part of the film as it came at a time where “he was really in need of inspiration.” Like Kapoor, Koirala was also “scepital” about playing a mother to Kapoor due to the fear of being “typecast.”
Aamir Khan was also approached to play the role of Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt. However, the role was turned down as Khan was already playing the role of a father at that time in Dangal. Khan had also stated that he wished to have played Dutt’s role instead as his “role is so wonderful that it won my heart… so don’t offer me any other role as I won’t be able to do it” The role was then passed onto actor Paresh Rawal who stated that his character is “human” and “doesn’t have a set mannerism, idiosyncrasy”.
Initial reports suggested that actress Anushka Sharma was approached to play the character of one of Dutt’s girlfriends, and then a rumoured journalist. However, Sharma denied these claims by stating that “my character is the only fictional character in the film” and “is not based on any living person”. At the trailer launch, Hirani stated that Sharma plays a biographer from London who comes to India, and in turn plays a “mix” of himself and Abhijat Joshi.
It was also reportedly initially that Sonam Kapoor would be playing the character of Tina Munim. Kapoor, however refuted these rumours and stated that “I have a small but important part in the movie. It’s not what everyone is thinking. I am not playing an actress.” Though, Hirani confirmed that Kapoor is indeed playing the role of “a girlfriend”.
Speaking on his role, Vicky Kaushal revealed that his character is an “amalgamation of three or four other friends” of Dutt and is thus “fictionalized”. Whilst Karishma Tanna’s role is yet unknown, Tanna revealed that it had been intended by Hirani and the rest of the team to keep her role a surprise and that Hirani “made it clear to that role would create a lot of speculation” as it is “exactly what [they] had anticipated.”