Sanju doesn't whitewash or dilute anything about Sanjay Dutt's life: Paresh Rawal on Rajkumar Hirani's biopic

Seema Sinha

June 29, 2018 09:39:38 IST

In Sanju, Rajkumar Hirani's biopic on Sanjay Dutt, Paresh Rawal essays the role of the troubled Bollywood star's father, Sunil Dutt. For Rawal, the film and role presented several opportunities, including working with Hirani. Incidentally, Rawal was Hirani's initial choice for the role that went to Boman Irani in Munnabhai MBBS.

“I had always wanted to work with Rajkumar Hirani because I've always admired his cinema. He’s a trustworthy director who will not meddle with facts and besides that, there would be something more in his film. He won’t mislead people. Getting an opportunity to play Sunil Dutt and that too in a biopic written by Abhijat Joshi — I could have never refused the role,” Rawal said, in an exclusive interview with Firstpost.

While Rawal, who met Sunil Dutt a few times, didn't have to look like the late actor-politician per se, a major challenge was in bringing to screen a personality who didn't have any visible "tics" — specific mannerisms, gestures, quirks or traits. “Sunil Dutt was a simple man, there was no apparent style that one could follow. I watched and heard some of his speeches, saw some of his films and documentaries... but he was a very simple actor, so what to pick up from that was a bit challenging. But overall, I had to understand and emote his pain, trauma, the battle that he was fighting. The endeavour to save his son while handling his political career smoothly must have been tough, so I had to basically capture that spirit. Also, his loneliness after the death of Nargisji... I got goose-bumps while performing that because he was already going through a lot as a father and politician,” Rawal said. Incidentally, he had made his film debut with Mahesh Bhatt's Naam in 1986 — a film that starred Sanjay Dutt in the lead.

Paresh Rawal with Ranbir Kapoor in a poster for Rajkumar Hirani's Sanju

Paresh Rawal with Ranbir Kapoor in a poster for Rajkumar Hirani's Sanju

Rawal also discussed what Sanju depicts of its subject's life. “Apart fromcertain personal matters, everything that happened in Sanjay Dutt’s life is all in the public domain, it's an open book. But what transpired between father-son is not known. The Dutts (Nargis and Sunil) dedicated a large part of their lives for their country. To have their son accused in the serial blasts case, living in the same house with someone who has been called a terrorist and is using drugs…what was Sunil Dutt going through during these times? What was he going through when his wife was suffering from cancer? All this is not in the public domain and this is what Sanju will show,” said Rawal.

The biopic also captures different aspects of the father-son relationship: Sunil Dutt loved his son but they were not "friends". “There was a bond, but their relationship was complex. Sanjay was close to his mother, and though he loved and respected his father, he never opened up (to him) until a certain point. I tried to maintain a distance off camera with Ranbir so that as performers, we could stay true to the characters. So on set, we wouldn't spend much time together in between shots,” Rawal explained, adding that he found Ranbir to a tremendously inspiring actor: “And when you have such a good actor in front of you, it lifts your performance as well.”

Portraying Sunil Dutt on screen has "amplified" Rawal's respect for the late legend. "The biggest takeaway for me was his good deeds, simplicity, nobility… All his life he fought these huge battles" his wife's illness, his son's addiction and legal troubles, and there were the controversies in his own political career. To fight all this with dignity, without abusing anyone, without blaming anyone — that to me was the biggest takeaway as an actor."

Is Sanju an attempt to whitewash Sanjay Dutt's image though? Rawal bristled a little when asked that question. “There’s absolutely no process of whitewashing or diluting things that happened in his life. We are not glorifying anything," he asserted. "There are people in our country who want to be above the judiciary. They feel they know more than the courts. They pass judgments about others that have no meaning. Sanjay Dutt has served his sentence and to say anything above that is not our right."

Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 09:39 AM