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Why Ranbir Kapoor is the perfect choice to play Sanjay Dutt 

The actor is in desperate need of a hit to turn the box-office tide in his favour. The Rajkumar Hirani biopic on one of Indian cinema's enfante terrible could just be the film to achieve that.

Shriram Iyengar

Ranbir Kapoor needs things to change. In a much publicised recent interview to a national network, the actor spoke about wanting to try something different. Speaking to critic Rajeev Masand, he said, "The real struggle was how do I become new, more of a surprise, more engaging? I’m getting bored seeing myself." Kapoor does have reason for optimism. The actor is the top choice for directors like Karan Johar, Ayan Mukherji, Anurag Basu and Rajkumar Hirani. After finishing work with Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, and Basu's Jagga Jasoos, the actor is ready to work in Hirani's much awaited biopic on Sanjay Dutt. 

As someone who has observed Dutt from close quarters, Kapoor does have some insight into the role. In the interview, he said, "Of course, but then when you approach a film and specially a biopic, and especially on the life of Sanjay Dutt with Rajkumar Hirani making it, you can’t really depend on what you know of him. Now I’ve the responsibility to portray him onscreen in the best way possible because that life is bloody interesting." This is comforting for fans who wish to see a film which depicts the unknown side of Dutt.

Dutt has, for long, been the problem child of Hindi cinema. Someone who straddled the limelight and the accompanying controversy with elan, Dutt even suffered prison time for his links with notorious criminals. The film is speculated to include some of the more controversial aspects of Dutt's life. Kapoor said, "It's not a propaganda film. It's not trying to paint him grey, white, or black. It's an engaging film...it is a story which was waiting to be told." The actor added that the film will not try and hide facts about Dutt's life, painting a clear picture. He mentioned that even when Hirani was unwilling to add certain aspects in the script, Dutt was more willing. The controversial part of Dutt's life will make for an interesting watch. Kapoor has not yet found success with darker roles, Bombay Velvet (2015) was a flop, but has been willing to experiment. The Dutt biopic might offer him an opportunity to carry it further. His work in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Wake Up Sid (2009), Rockstar (2011), and (Barfi (2012) have earned him praise from audience and critics alike. Kapoor said, "See, my purpose is an actor, so I’m in that phase where my films have to change, my expressions, the tricks in my magic bag have to change. I’ve to unlearn." This is a sign of optimism for the film and the actor himself. 

However, having a successful director helm a film on a mercurial superstar's life does not guarantee success. The embodiment of the persona on screen is another challenge that Kapoor will have to face up to. On bringing Dutt's larger than life personality alive on screen, Kapoor said, "You can't do that. I can't be talking like him. When you see an actor portraying a real life person, there is a certain connect that you need to have. Once you see this film, in the first scene you might say "This is Ranbir. He can't play Sanjay Dutt.' I am playing Sanjay Dutt as a person, and I am grateful to know him as a person. I know what his heart is. I will try to manage and get that on screen." 

Kapoor did admit the physical transformation will play a part. According to him "Of course, the physicality, body structure matters. I will try and match it as far as I can. The challenge is in (capturing the soul), not in aping him." The actor does share certain common personality and physical traits with Dutt in his younger days. Both, Dutt and Kapoor, are slightly introverted and have run afoul with the media at times. Both actors come from a pedigreed film family and were born to star parents. Their penchant for high-profile relationships and public break-ups add to the many common factors. These elements might help Kapoor identify with the senior actor's persona, and bring authenticity to the film. 

Biopics have been all the rage in Hindi cinema in recent times. Mary Kom(2013), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Azhar (2016), and the soon to launch MS Dhoni — The Untold Story (2016) are among the more successful ones. However, Hirani and Kapoor seek to recreate the life of a film star, which remains a fairly unexplored area in the genre so far. It will be interesting to see how it pans out. One thing is certain that with Hirani and Abhijat Joshi scripting it, Kapoor will have the chance to recreate the life of one of Indian cinema's most interesting stars. 

Kapoor is expected to start filming for the biopic in September.