Article Hindi

I got carried away by anecdotes from Sanjay Dutt’s life, admits Rajkumar Hirani


The filmmaker discussed the challenges he faced while making the Sanjay Dutt biopic as compared to his other four films, during an interaction at the Cinestaan India's Storytellers masterclass.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju (2018), a biopic of actor Sanjay Dutt, became a blockbuster when it was released earlier this year.

At the Cinestaan India's Storytellers masterclass in Mumbai yesterday, Hirani spoke of the challenges he faced while making the film as compared to the four fiction films he had made before that — Munna Bhai MBBS (2003), Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006), 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014).

“The difference between these four films and Sanju is that the latter was a biopic," Hirani explained. "I got attracted to the film after I heard some stories and anecdotes; those were real-life anecdotes which I heard from Sanju and from others. So I got carried away thinking this is a goldmine. Where else will you get such stories? Actually half of them couldn’t make it to the film.”

Second edition of Cinestaan India's Storytellers Contest is now open

When Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi started writing the script for Sanju, they realized that there is a huge difference between a biopic and a fictional story. “You can dramatize things in biopics," said Hirani. "You can even merge some of the characters. But you can’t change the story. If, say, I don’t like the climax, can I think of killing the character in the end? I can’t do that! He is alive. How can I kill him?”

Hirani said he has realized that writing fiction is more his zone: “I had to play with the same anecdotes. I had got attracted to the anecdotes thinking it would be easy to write the script. But now I think fiction is better because the characters are in my control. I can make them do anything. I can’t do that [in a biopic].”

Also, unlike some other recent biopics, Sanju was not the story of an achiever. “Sanju is an anecdotal biopic," the filmmaker continued. "It is not the story of a hero or an achiever. It wasn’t the story of Milkha Singh who ran and achieved something. Mary Kom’s story is an achiever's story. This [Sanju] was the story of a non-achiever. Maybe it’s a survivor’s tale. But there are very few heroic acts in his life.”

Hirani somehow located Dutt’s heroism: “While narrating the story, he [Dutt] said his dad was getting desperate to get him out of jail. Then one lawyer suggested he become an approver in the case so that he could get out. But Sanju said no.

"While listening to the recording again, I realized this is his life’s heroic act. If he had got out by becoming an approver, the case would not have gone on for 23 years [and he probably would not have gone to jail].”

This was how the writers found their climax for Sanju. “We thought this has to be the climax. If we show this in the middle, what will the climax be? If we had just shown that he got out of jail [in the end], it would have been like just giving information. So, we showed how this became a misunderstanding between the friends [Dutt and the character played by Vicky Kaushal] and this had happened in real life.”

“Biopics have their limitations," the filmmaker said candidly and only half in jest. "We also passed through them. Now, I will only make fiction.”