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At the beginning of Sanju, we see one of the characters trying to draw a comparison between 'Baba' and 'Bapu' in a hilarious sort of manner when asked by Sanjay Dutt (Ranbir Kapoor) to pen his biography. Of course, Dutt's not the way so the man is quickly shown the door. Right then and there, Rajkumar Hirani establishes the fact that Sanju isn't your regular biopic! Sanjay Dutt may be synonymous with Gandhigiri but in real life, the picture was quite different. Bole toh in Sanju's words, "Apna Life Full Saanp Seedhe Ka Board Hai, Kabhie Up To Kabhie Down!
Also Read In Kannada: 'ಸಂಜು' ವಿಮರ್ಶೆ: ರಣ್ಬೀರ್-ರಾಜಕುಮಾರ್ ಹಿರಾನಿಯ 'ಮಾಸ್ಟರ್ ಪೀಸ್'!
Finally, when we along with the established writer Winnie (Anushka Sharma) peek into Sanjay Dutt's life through Hirani's cinematic lens, we realize that the film-maker almost succeeds in humanising his larger-than-life persona with the help of a heart-touching father-son story.
A major portion of the first half of Sanju talks about his tryst with drugs and his struggle to overcome this deadly addiction. Hirani takes us to the sets of Rocky where a young, naive Sanjay Dutt (Ranbir Kapoor) is nervous for his first take. He is supposed to shot the romantic 'Kya Yahi Pyaar Hain' minus the heroine. A picture of Hema Malini and Amjad Khan's Gabbar Singh comes to his rescue in a rather hilarious way after his dad Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) shows him a trick.
However, the rebellious streak in Sanju soon comes into the forefront when one of his fake friends Zubin Mistry (Jim Sarbh) gets him hooked to drugs. Soon, his relationship with his girlfriend (Sonam Kapoor) goes kaput and he discovers his mother Nargis (Manisha Koirala) is suffering from cancer and later succumbs to it. Dutt goes to seek solace in drugs again.
Fortunately, a ray of hope arrives in his life when he strikes a friendship with Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal). He helps Sanju in getting out of the whirlwind of drugs along with his father.
But then things don't remain hunky-dory for long. Sanju once again finds himself in deep trouble after he is charged under TADA and Arms Act case. It's at this point where you get a helpless father torn between his love for his son and his moral code.
At the same time, Hirani also takes a dig at media for publishing factually incorrect stories by hiding behind a question mark and holds them responsible for passing quick judgements.
Ironically, in real life, Ranbir Kapoor just like Dutt often finds his personal life discussed with question marks in public domain. (Spoiler! During the closing credits, when you see Sanjay Dutt and Ranbir Kapoor shaking a leg and poking fun at the 'sources' in media, you just can't help yourself from drawing parallels and chuckling!)
On the flip side, those expecting to see the juicy details of his several affairs and other aspects of personal life will be in for a disappointment as Hirani refrains from touching upon those chapters. You don't say much of greys here and what about the inner conflicts?
Speaking about the performances, Sanju is Ranbir Kapoor's show. Right from the first frame till the last, not once does the young lad make you feel that you ain't watching the real man on-screen. While his uncanny resemblance to Dutt helps, it's Ranbir's sharp acting prowess which helps him mould into his reel life so effectively. Be it Sanjay Dutt's slouching walk or his talking mannerisms, Ranbir gets it bang on right! His tight hold on emotions leaves you with a 'wow'.
Paresh Rawal strikes magic and his scenes with Ranbir are a treat to watch; be it the emotional or humorous ones! My god, Vicky Kaushal took me by pleasant surprise! In Sanju, he's like you never seen before. His bromance with Ranbir Kapoor is one of the most entertaining aspects of Sanju.
Manisha Koirala is flawless and the scene where she mimics a Hollywood actress leaves you spell-bound. Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor and Dia Mirza are fine in their roles. Jim Sarbh's delicious sliminess gets a thumbs up. Karisma Tanna ends up with a forgettable cameo.
Ravi Varman's cinematography beautifully captures the essence of Sanjay Dutt's life. Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi's writing is rock-solid and entertaining.
Out of the three tracks, it's 'Kar Har Maidan Fateh' which tugs your heartstrings.
Rajkumar Hirani's skilful direction and Ranbir Kapoor's fine act turn Sanjay Dutt's flawed life into a wholesome entertainer with good intentions. After all, there's a crack in everything. Isn't that how the light gets in? I am going with 4 stars here.