If I were to boil it down in the most brutal fashion, I would call Sanju as one of those arguments that you have with your parent. You do not really agree with them but you cannot really do anything about it.
Do not close the tab just yet. I have only posed the argument. Bear with me for a second.
Sanju is not a bad movie. I would have wanted it to be a bad movie but Hirani and Abhijat Joshi seldom go wrong. It is like they have cracked the code, if there exists any, of the Hindi film industry. The over two-hour long runtime of the movie has enough drama and entertainment to keep you glued to the screen. Rajkumar Hirani knows what he is doing.
In fact, he is so good at the craft of specifically making a Hindi film that the two halves (separated by the Interval) of Sanju could have been released as two separate films. And they would still hold as independent films on their own. The movie makes you laugh, cry and comments on the evils of media today. But never does it make you think like a biopic should.
At the time after Steve Jobs’ death every production house under the sun wanted to make a film about the man. Aaron Sorkin was presented with the opportunity to write one. Now Sorkin is not your typical writer. He is a writer who defined a technique of film making so much so that they refer to it with a particular terminology, that is, walk and talk. Sorkin’s characters are not dumb humans like the ones written by Noah Baumbach. But rather they are smart intellectual beings who talk faster than Donald Duck on cocaine.
Still when Sorkin was entrusted with the task of writing the biopic, he simply justified it. He gave a very plausible and beautiful explanation. He said, that he is not going to make a photograph but rather a painting. This painting shall be by him and in his style. So Sorkin was writing a story about a Steve Jobs that he thought he knew and not the actual Steve Jobs. This way, the movie was not really a biopic. It was an attempt to show the world how people and most importantly, Sorkin perceived Steve Jobs to be.
If I were to be so bold to extend on the analogy of Sorkin, I would say that Sanju is not only a painting by Rajkumar Hirani, but rather a romanticized painting drawn in the art style of a Disney Pixar movie. The last samurai was a war movie. Mulan was a war movie too. But the obvious difference; apart from the fact that the first was live action and the other being an animated film; was that the execution was vastly different. Sure, every decision that was taken for Sanju can be safely kept behind the curtains named ‘creative choice’, sadly I do not agree with most of them.
Sure the movie never defends Sanjay Dutt and his actions but it sure as hell gives us all the reasons and situations that led to those actions. The movie shows us the consequences of his actions. And we do end up sympathizing with the character. But the objective behind a biopic is not to make us sympathize cause that becomes propaganda. Omerta, being a biopic never really sympathizes with the character. Not because it was about a terrorist but because the film making never focuses on sympathizing. That movie shows us objectively the snapshots of the life of Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh. Then it lets us decide whether we think he is a terrorist or not.
Sanju on the other hand comes with a checklist that it tries to shove down your throat without objectivity. I am not saying I do not believe the things that were shown in the film. I am saying that I would have believed it myself if only the film presented it to me as a file for me to read. Rather than serving it to me on a plate for consumption. All in all Sanju is being called a biopic, but it really is not one.