Sanju, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, has become one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of 2018 and rightly so. The movie is established as a ‘biopic’ on actor Sanjay Dutt, though there is a strong focus on Dutt’s drug addiction and his illegal arms conviction.
Besides the film being a poignant yet entertaining watch, I realised that the movie challenges the stereotypical image of a Bollywood star-kid. During a time where ‘nepotism’ is a prominent subject in the movie industry, Sanju highlights the challenges faced by the children of famous Bollywood stars.
Initially, I thought the movie will revolve around how the son of a rich father gets led astray and spoilt, but I gathered that there is a lot more depth. We witness the separation, pressure and pain Sanjay as a Starchild, faced in his life. This is believed to have stemmed from his young days when he was sent to boarding school, not only for disciplinary purposes and to gain a good education, but also to perhaps live up to the ‘Dutt’ surname. As such, we see a volatile side to Sanju (played by Ranbir Kapoor), when he gets told to go to rehab. We see his fear of being separated from his family come out.
Being the son of THE Sunil Dutt added the aspect of pain and pressure. For instance, just a few days before the Rocky premiere, which was Sanjay Dutt’s first film, his mother – Nargis passed away and Hirani portrays this scene in a very effective way. During this part, we see Sanju in a drugged and despaired state and so, is led by his father, Sunil Dutt (played by Paresh Rawal) through the crowds. This gives a sense of pain and pressure as he has to put on a brave-face and maintain the ‘public figure’ look, despite that his mother had just passed away.
Moreover, there is a scene in which Sanjay’s friend Kamlesh (played by Vicky Kaushal), in a drunkard state, tells Sunil to tell his son that it is okay not to be like his father. I feel this is a constant pressure that children of famous parents face on a regular basis, it is that burden to succumb to the expectations or legacy set by their mother and/or father.
Often when we talk about star-kids, there is often the thought of about how they would take their short-hand to success for granted. As such, the dialogue: “Thousands come into the city to become an actor. They toil hard for it and here you are getting this comfortable life, learn to respect it,” does not only hint at how fortunate star-children are, but it also reminds them that the film-line is their world and how they should conform to it in a humbled and appreciative way.
In Bollywood, we have seen several sons and daughters of famous parents enter the industry and this trend, infamously known as ‘nepotism’, seems to be prominent today. Whilst many star children that have survived, there has also been a handful of actors who did not make a mark in the film fraternity, despite a dream launch.
The audience and critics are right to critique a star if they lack a certain ability. However, it is problematic when the actor is slandered for (literally) being the offspring to a legend or of a “rich man or woman.” In that sense, Sanju is eye-opening because it sheds light on the perspectives of Sanjay Dutt himself.
All this time, we were seeing everything on the media’s perspective, but the Rajkumar Hirani film is a platform for Sanjay himself to tell us about his life – so we the public can understand the real pressures.
‘Nepotism’ (which means to favour relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs) has been flung around so much and in such a negative way that it raises eyebrows. I fully understand that there are many deserving people out there who deserve a break and sometimes they don’t, but I don’t actually feel nepotism is that bad. I remember when Student Of The Year released and I found out that Varun is David Dhawan’s son and Alia is Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter, it made me quite curious to see how they would perform.
In fact, I feel nepotism feeds into our curiosity and fantasy. Imagine watching a Bollywood star for almost your entire life and then finally seeing the son or daughter of that actor being launched. It is a feeling of amazement because we have witnessed the highs and lows of a certain actor, it makes us automatically connect with their child.
Furthermore, I feel that nepotism ensures a sense of financial security for producers, as they personally know the relative or parents of the actor they launch. But having said that, there have also been instances when an actor has been given a chance and failed miserably, so it depends. But one thing for certain is that nepotism DOES exist and it is not just limited to the film industry.
Whilst Sanju indeed showcases the life of a star-kid, it has a strong human focus on Sanjay Dutt’s struggles and pressures. It seems like unlike an actual career-path, nepotism was his way to survive. Cinema was his life-line. The movie made me realise that although fame and popularity seem glamorous, what happens behind closed doors can narrate a different story.
But we must question if nepotism did not exist then, would we have had the opportunity to watch a film called ‘Sanju’ in 2018?