Ranbir’s ‘Sanju’ act is short of breath

Sanjay's saga is a chronicle of self-abuse and voluntary destruction. Neither of these aspects is highlighted or even mentioned in the trailer.

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Everything seems to be a joke in the eagerly awaited trailer of Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju, based on the life of troubled actor Sanjay Dutt. A cruel joke told in the form of a psychedelic fable replete with visuals of Sanju baba aka Ranbir Kapoor, high on drugs, so high that he can’t tell the difference between a laugh and a cry, or a mangalsutra and a toilet seat.

In a sequence meant to be deafeningly shrill in its hysterical repudiation of a traumatic marriage, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja shrieks for her missing mangalsutra, and her high-as-a-kite husband drapes her neck with a toilet seat. Toilets occur twice in the longish trailer. Next we see Sanju in a dingy prison cell panicking as the inbuilt toilet vomits yellow liquid excreta in nauseating bubbles. Realism during the times of surrealism.

The atmosphere is light, fluffy, woozy and jokey even in the scenes of horrific torture where Ranbir’s Sanju cracks up after a resounding slap from a policeman interrogating him for his alleged terror activity. It is again an unintentionally funny moment because the real Sanjay Dutt must have cracked up so many times under duress without looking like he has just been caught eating an extra gulab jamun for dessert.

Sanjay’s saga is a chronicle of self-abuse and voluntary destruction. Neither of these aspects is highlighted or even mentioned in the trailer. Barring the small glimpse of Manisha Koirala as Sanjay’s legendary mother Nargis, every actor seems to be in this for the fun of it. Vicky Kaushal, so majestically restrained in Raazi, is specially annoying as Sanju’s sidekick smirking about “say-ex”.

And Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt behaves as if his son is an angel targeted by all the devils in the world. This is so wrong. I remember how troubled Sunil was by his son’s antics. Speaking to me, he had called his son a “bigda beta (a brat)” spoilt by his mother. The trailer makes it seems the father blames the world for his son’s troubles.

Everything in the trailer seems to be done for effect. Anushka Sharma (with a specially-cropped haircut to look the part) asks Sanjay how many women he has slept with besides his girlfriends. (Which journalist asks such questions in Mumbai?) “Does that include prostitutes? 308… no make that 350 just to be on the safe side,” Ranbir’s Sanju deadpans. The overweening cuteness of an incorrigible hedonist is unbearable to digest.

The only moment that actually had me laughing was when director Mahesh Manjrekar calls Sanjay Dutt, saying the shot is ready. Sanju pretends to be stuck in the traffic.

“But I’ve called you on the landline,” protests Manjrekar with a laugh. That’s it. Everyone – from mum Nargis to friend Manjrekar – laughed off Sanju baba’s wrongdoings. Judging by the trailer, it seems we’re supposed to do the same.

Subhash K. Jha (IANS)