Starring Ranbir Kapoor as the eponymous ‘Sanju’ Baba, the film humanises and portrays the powerful relationship between Sanjay and Sunil Dutt while layering many other elements of celebrity life, personal loss, triumph, emotions and politics. A major part of the film focuses on Dutt’s struggle with drugs and overcoming his addiction and rise to stardom. ‘Sanju’ dares to tell the story of a man who is branded a terrorist and lambasts the press for manipulating the story of an innocent man. The question inevitably becomes whether ‘Sanju’ romanticises bad choices or Bollwoodises overcoming obstacles with powerful motivational tracks (Kar Har Maidan Fateh) and tearjerker moments. Since Hirani takes the Eastwood route and capitalises on the innate and the visceral – he also makes Dutt very human and makes the press the villain. The film becomes preachy at times and offers no explanation as to how and why Sanjay Dutt’s habit of pathological lying, womanising, making incredibly bad decisions still allows him to be a likeable person This is perhaps Ranbir Kapoor’s best performance to date. Even though, at some moments, he appears mechanical, almost replicating Dutt’s swooping gait and nothing else, there are plenty moments in the film that grip you with Kapoor’s vulnerability and truth. Those are the moments when you forget that this is essentially a film by a star kid struggling to fix his career by playing a star kid who struggled to fix his. Perhaps, it is the underlying similarity of both individuals in real life that add a layer to the perception of the film itself and make it believable. Apart from selling you the story of Sanjay Dutt, Sanju also sells you one simple mantra: script is the most vital part. The direction is watertight and all the actors are par excellence in the film (even though Paresh Rawal, with no slight to his prowess as an actor, is slightly miscast as the senior Dutt) but it is the powerful script that holds your attention throughout the two plus hours of Dutt’s roller coaster tale. Sanju argues how substance abuse is a shoddy replacement for emotional pain and how the life of a high profile celebrity such as Sanjay Dutt is marred with as much failure and loss as it is with glory. The film becomes preachy at times and offers no explanation as to how and why Sanjay Dutt’s habit of pathological lying, womanising, making incredibly bad decisions still allows him to be a likeable person. His best friend, Kamli (Vicky Kaushal) asserts at one point in the film that he’d be okay if his best friend was a drug addict or a womaniser – and you can’t help but wonder why. Kaushal is a revelation. His small role in Raazi was enough to convince audiences that he’s very good at his work but it is Sanju where he shines bright, holding the film adeptly. Whether it is his monologue or his punchlines, Kaushal is magnificent. The supporting cast, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor and Dia Mirza are incorporated into the story well but this is Ranbir Kapoor’s film throughout. He pours everything he knows into Sanju and creates the performance of a lifetime. The trailer does not do justice to the cinematic treat that is Sanju and the film is nothing less than a must watch. 3.5/5 stars. Published in Daily Times, June 30th 2018.