New Delhi: Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani has admitted that he made a deliberate attempt to ‘create empathy’ for the subject of his biopic Sanju – actor Sanjay Dutt – by shooting some additional portions. Speaking at a masterclass held by Indian Film and TV Directors Association, Mr Hirani said that his original plan was to depict the life and times of the controversial actor as they happened but that later felt the need for a central character who would inspire empathy. Sanju, a blockbuster at the box office, was severely criticised for glossing over entire chapters of Sanjay Dutt’s life – his first wife Richa Sharma and daughter Trishala, among them – and for taking a rosy view of the actor’s role in the 1993 Bombay Blasts. “During the shoot I felt ‘What am I doing, I’m going wrong.’ In fact, when the first edit was ready and we screened for people, they hated him. They said we don’t like this man, we don’t want to watch him,” Rajkumar Hirani said, PTI reports.
“Because I wanted to do a true story, I didn’t create any empathy towards him. I said let’s not create empathy and show (him) as he is. But later I understood that he is our hero, we need some empathy for him,” said Mr Hirani. Rajkumar Hirani’s words appear to confirm criticism that he attempted to whitewash Sanjay Dutt’s tarnished image with a film many dismissed as propaganda.
Rajkumar Hirani explained which scenes of the film were edited or deleted to change the script.
“The scene where he tries to kill himself after the verdict is out; which he had mentioned to me but we didn’t put in the film, I shot it later. It was not in the original script. I thought through this some empathy will come. The initial test reactions were like ‘naah we don’t like this guy…’ Every film is a journey. Some things work and some don’t. I still see flaws in the film but you try your best and hope your best is good enough,” he said, PTI reports.
Sanjay Dutt, who starred in Mr Hirani’s Munna Bhai films and also had a role in PK, was convicted of illegally possessing arms in connection to the 1993 Bombay Blasts and was sentenced to five years in jail. He was controversially released eight months early for good behaviour – something the Maharashtra government has been asked to explain by the Bombay High Court – leaving Pune’s Yerwada Jail a free man in February 2016. While in jail, Sanjay Dutt was also allowed out on several furloughs.
Rajkumar Hirani also spoke at length defending his own perspective of Sanjay Dutt, insisting that he isn’t ‘a bad man’ despite being convicted in a terror plot, and denied that he used Sanju to ‘whitewash’ the actor – a denial that rings hollow in light of his admission above. Here are Rajkumar Hirani’s quotes on Sanjay Dutt and Sanju from the masterclass, as reported by PTI: “Everyone views the story through their own perspective. Someone would’ve made Sanju only on the chapter of how he acquired the gun, destroyed it, and then the case. It could have been a film of its own. But I thought everyone knew this. The father-son equation interested me more. I was blown away by Black Friday. If Anurag would have heard the story, he may have been attracted to the gun angle and would have made that story. He would have made a great film with that.”
“(Sanjay Dutt) goes and sleeps with his best friend’s girlfriend but there isn’t any reason. Their friendship was almost jeopardised. The other scene where he puts the commode seat on a girl he wants to marry, I am not defending that! It’s a terrible action. My perception of Sanju was that he has done so many weird things but he is not a bad man… I felt he had an innocence, he is naughty but he doesn’t harm anyone. He didn’t pick up the gun, scared people or fired a shot. He made a mistake.”
“We made a commentary about certain section of the media and the term ‘whitewashed’ came into play. Everywhere I go people say I have whitewashed him but I haven’t. A journalist asked me, why did you whitewash Sanju and I asked what was Sanju’s crime? I am not defending the man but myself and the film. He kept a gun, destroyed it too, lied to his father and was arrested. I showed it all, his drug phase and the way he treated people. So where have I whitewashed?”
Sanju earned over Rs. 300 crore at the box office. Apart from Ranbir Kapoor, stars like Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal, Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Dia Mirza were also part of the film.