I know, hours late, but better late than never! And now you can all watch it and have a nice discussion with me about it and how we all feel.
I was going to say that I’m not sure how I feel about this, but then I thought about it, and decided I am sure, and I am sure that I really really really don’t like it.
I can kind of see what the idea was. Sanjay is a fascinating celebrity in how he has constantly reinvented himself, the Sanjay of 1981 has almost nothing to do with the Sanjay of 1991, or 2001, or 2011, and so on and so on. So they wanted to show that idea through a slightly surreal play acting, deal with Sanjay The Image instead of Sanjay the Person.
This is an interesting concept for a biopic, especially the first major biopic of Indian film. To treat the whole world as a stage and everyone in it as characters. Only, I think Sanjay is a very very very bad choice for the subject of the film. He makes sense because few stars have as many and as varied public personas as he did. But his is not a life story you can treat lightly.
Starting with Sanjay himself. His mother died, he survived drug addiction and recovered, his wife died, he lost custody of his daughter, he went in and out of jail breaking his father’s heart, his second marriage fell apart, his father died, he got married a third time and had two more children, and then was sent to jail again missing out on his children’s childhood. And he is still a living person, as are his children, his sisters, his second wife, the parents of his dead first wife, and his current wife. It makes me very uncomfortable to see all this real pain and all these real people being reduced to an acting experiment.
And that’s just the start of it. Sanjay’s prison term was the result of his involvement in the Bombay Bomb Blasts, which killed real people. Sanjay was barely involved, but it’s going to be hard to address his prison term at all without referring to the blasts in some way. And again, very uncomfortable to put a reference to that within a film that has this very self-aware sprightly Brechtian kind of attitude.
I was optimistic when this film was first announced, not just because I am always optimistic, but because in the first Munna Bhai I feel like Rajkumar Hirani did a really good job exploring the Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt relationship. And he pulled out a unique kind of sweetness and goodness from inside Sanjay in their films together. So I wanted to see Hirani’s thoughtful take on who Sanjay Dutt is and what he was to the people around him.
And initial signs were good! The first confirmation I saw that this film was really really happening was that Rajkumar Hirani was there to film Sanjay leaving jail. The idea of using that as an ending, and using real life footage, to me said that the film wasn’t going to shy away from the difficult parts of Sanjay’s life, and that it was going to try to grapple with it in a way that respected the real person involved.
But then pretty much everything after that made me pessimistic. Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt? Ranbir Kapoor taking an eternity to prepare? Constant filming delays?
And now this teaser. Which is…..not great. Looking at the whole sweep of this, Rajkumar’s sensitivity for Sanjay’s story, the start of it outside of jail, the looooooooooooong prep period, the many many reshoots, it just feels like cowardice? Like, they started out wanting to do a real serious look at Sanjay’s life, and then they just got increasingly superficial as they got scared away from the realness of his life, until they ended up with this. The opposite end of the spectrum from “real”.
Or, maybe it is just a bad teaser!!!! I am still an optimist!