A healthy debate on Sanju, any one?

06 Jul,2018


By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s been a week since Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju released, and it’s already on its way to becoming one of the biggest hits in Hindi cinema history, with even an outside chance of crossing Dangal’s box office collections to become the industry’s highest grosser in the domestic market so far.


That the audiences have lapped up the film is an understatement. The film’s idea, of getting a contemporary actor to play a major star, who’s still actively working, in the latter’s biopic, was a tricky one. But from the time the first visuals from the film came out, it was apparent that Hirani has managed to hit the bull’s eye on one of the most crucial aspects of the film – Ranbir Kapoor’s uncanny resemblance to Sanjay Dutt, across all his looks.


The rather gimmicky campaign, which focused almost entirely on this look (and voice) match aspect, clicked across the country, and the film opened to record collections last Friday. But films need more than just a good opening if they have to be record-breakers. And Sanju managed that over the course of its first week, clocking 200 Cr in India, and is setto add another 100-150, if not 200.


But while the audiences have taken very well to the film, it’s not been all well for Sanju when it comes to the general media. Some very respected senior journalists covering politics and crime over the years have taken extreme objections to the film’s hagiographical second half, which they see as an evident attempt to “whitewash” Sanjay Dutt’s image of a notorious criminal.Only a few film journalists have concurred with this “irresponsible” act on the part of Hirani, who thus far has enjoyed a non-controversial, squeaky-clean image.


It’s only fair that there should be a debate on the two polarized views on the film. After all, the film deals with an aspect of Dutt’s life that involved an act of terrorism on the nation. It’s not one of those inane Padmaavat type of issues, where the only reason to stoke up a debate was to gain political mileage. There are a lot of people who have watched the film and probably don’t have any awareness that a counter-argument exists in the first place. They deserve to know what a section of the nation, however small, thinks.


Yet, the mainstream media has chosen to ignore Sanju. News channels that spent hours and hours in the prime-time discussing Karni Sena and Padmaavat (then Padmavati) pretend that Sanju doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s only a film after all. The coverage on the dissent, if one can call it that, is limited to the Internet, on select English websites, and an elitesection of the social media. That’s where it may end too.


I, for one, will like to watch some meaningful debates (they are tough to come by these days) where the two sides express their perspectives and bring more facts to the table. But because neither BJP nor the “united” opposition seem interested, we will continue to see debates on PFI and JNU instead.


Popular culture is one of the most effective tools to build a social discourse on issues of national importance. More than three crore people who will watch Sanju in the theatre, plus crores of others who will watch it via other media over the next year, don’t care much about facts vs. fiction. They would seek their entertainment from the film, and going by what we have seen so far, they will be mightily satisfied.But by turning a blind eye to the film, the mainstream media would have lost an opportunity to engage with its audiences on a relevant and popular topic of current interest.


The conclusion is rather simplistic: If a piece of news does not have direct political importance (read impact on 2019 elections), the media in the country will not care too much about it.



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One response to “A healthy debate on Sanju, any one?”

  1. Mansi Gupta says:

    Really informative and practical view about the movie
    Thumbs up to the written.