Sanju: Will Ranbir Kapoor's Sanjay Dutt biopic break Bollywood's uneven graph with the genre of biopics?

Archita Kashyap

Apr 29, 2018 09:02:29 IST

Rajkumar Hirani is a filmmaker that has tackled subjects with mass appeal intelligently and entertainingly. He doesn’t preach directly, but does so through a good story, led by an adorable, golden-hearted protagonist. With PK! he pushed the taboo on tackling anything around religion, the R word, brilliantly. PK! followed up on the runaway hit Oh My God, but did so with tons of laughs and a completely surprising context.

Now there’s Sanju- his next featuring Ranbir Kapoor. In his own words, a biopic is a different monster altogether. Ranbir has adapted the signature Sanjay Dutt stooped shoulder, hang dog expression and unusual swagger precisely. As is norm today, the Internet is supposedly going gaga over it too. But as the star spoke at the trailer launch, getting the physicality is not the hard part. The real challenge is staying true to the man’s persona, one who has lived so many different lives in a short span of time.

Sanju: Will Ranbir Kapoors Sanjay Dutt biopic break Bollywoods uneven graph with the genre of biopics?

Rajkumar Hirani, Ranbir Kapoor and Vidhu Vinod Chopra at the teaser launch of Sanju. Firstpost image

Ranbir, one might say, excels at capturing realism in fiction. His character in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year is a fine example of a subtle Sardaar act. The character is like-able, convincing and contemporary. Kapoor has also swung the character of Jordan in Rockstar smoothly. Rough hewn, soft hearted and at times, impulsive to the point of stupid, Jordan felt real, even if he lived his life in a fairly unreal setting. Kapoor playing a real character will perhaps go beyond the physicality and dress up.

Sanju is the biopic of a living person, one whose life has peaked in public glare. That adds to the challenge.

One also gets curious if the film will tell the Sanjay Dutt story with depth and insight, or will it stay on the surface level- focusing on his ups, downs, casual humor and happy go lucky attitude. Will it look at the rights and wrongs?

For if one goes by the record of Hindi films in making biopics, skepticism creeps in. The industry has never been good at tackling these films. Amongst recent ones, Azhar and Haseena hold up this argument. While the former was inacurate, the later was simply, slow and chewy. Both did the dressing up bit pretty well. The sets, appearances of lead characters and time span were created with authenticity. But the core story simply didn’t work.

Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt/Image from Twitter.

Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt/Image from Twitter.

Making of a biopic is painstaking. It requires reading, research and analysis. It needs sourcing and recreation of visual authenticity. Most importantly, it needs focus on the impact of a real life- getting to the essence of this person’s story. It also needs sizeable amounts of money to successfully recreate a time specific period.

In the business of entertaining people, Hindi films have often proven to be very good as well as successful. But a biopic is different- the process has to it’s own reward, although its not one filmmakers and producers in Hindi cinema have sought.

Be it the Mary Kom film, or Sarabjit or MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, they ride of hyperbole and feel incomplete, as the character grows and evolves in fits and starts.Each character seems to be on a mission- but there’s more to life than waging the good battle. That’s a nuance that often is amiss. That’s not necessarily to say that they didn’t make money; only that they were more film than biopic. Similarly, The Dirty Picture is an entertainer, but at times, insensitive to its protagonist and her trials.

Perhaps the two best ones that could hit both the audience’s pulse and tell an entertaining, solid story of true lives are Dangal and Neerja. These films have told sensitive stories and recreated the drama of not-so-ordinary lives touchingly. Of course, the dacoit films, like Bandit Queen and Paan Singh Tomar remain the best, and are world class. But the number is dismally low for a country with so many interesting, story worthy lives.

Yet, if one looks across to Hollywood, the biggest mainstream film industry we have, biopics have an exulted place. Actors aspire to playing a real life character, and filmmakers, along with humungous crews, sink their teeth into these subjects- creating career best films. Interestingly, most times, those who play the lead character in a biopic don’t look like the person. They are styled and costumed to look like the person they are playing.

Oskar Shindler wasn’t half as gorgeous as Liam Neeson, yet the veteran British star did a fabulous job as him in Schindler’s List. As Capote, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman was so convicing that his voice sounded completely unlike his natural tone. If anything, British actor Toby Jones resembles the real Truman Capote more, but Hoffman’s performance leaves no room for doubt. Similarly, Howard Hughes was actually more like a movie star- looks and swagger wise- then Leonardo Di Caprio. And yet, Di Caprio delivered a knockout performance, one that makes you cringe and cry for the character. Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo is subtly magnificent as is Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, their physical non-resemblance does becoming insignificant.

But if we were to refocus on India, we’ve got as many as eight biopics coming our way soon.

Hrithik Roshan’s Super Thirty pictures surprise pleasantly, as do the photos of Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika (mentioning them in the same sentence is not intended to evoke second thoughts). And there’s Anupam Kher as former PM Manmohan Singh in The Accidental Prime Minister. Promising in terms of performers and filmmakers, perhaps these biopics will successfully rejig the mediocre show we’ve had at true-life stories in Hindi film.

Sanju has a change-making filmmaker in charge. It also has a Ranbir Kapoor, one of our best actors ever, putting his best foot forward, set to convince everyone of his abilities. So, there’s hope.

Updated Date: Apr 29, 2018 09:02:29 IST