Whitewashing, media bashing and glorification. The makers of Sanju have been fielding allegations ever since the film on the tumultuous life of actor Sanjay Dutt hit the screens. Now, they have questions of their own.
“If I start on that, I can talk on it for the full day,” Rajkumar Hirani said when asked to comment on talks about media bashing.
Abhijat Joshi, who has co-written the biopic with Hirani, was quick to add: “There is no media bashing at all. We are great fans of the media. What we are bashing is a certain section which sensationalises things and uses a question mark to make things chatpata [spicy]. That has been critiqued, and I am amazed there has been no introspection on that side. No one has even said that it happens.”
The reference is in context to a scene featuring a newspaper cutting titled “RDX [compound used as an explosive] in a truck parked in Dutt house?”
“Today if the world believes that he had RDX, it’s based on that one news, so we have criticised that. But now when we are told that the whole film is about media bashing, it’s again picking up a headline,” Hirani said.
From Dutt’s drug addiction, personal affairs, a jail term for possession of arms in connection with the 1993 serial blasts, to his bonds with his parents and friends, Sanju has delved into different aspects of the actor’s life but has also left out a lot.
Hirani, who has hits such as the Munna Bhai series, 3 Idiots and PK to his credit, also wonders why is there talk that he has “whitewashed” Dutt through the film.
“Whitewashing as a word is being thrown open. If you’ve watched the film, what was Sanju’s crime?” he counter-questioned.
Dutt had a gun.
“Yes, he kept the gun, and we have shown that. We have shown that he served five years in jail and that he is saying it was a mistake… So where is the question of whitewashing? What have I whitewashed? I want to understand that,” Hirani commented.
Joshi added, “The crime has been shown graphically. He is destroying the gun, we have shown that the bullets are thrown away, we are showing that. So whatever is the crime is, is clearly shown.”
Hirani continued, “People are using this word whitewash. I want to know what have I whitewashed? I have shown that he had 308 girlfriends, that he was so addicted to drugs, he slept with his friend’s girlfriend. Is this whitewashing? If we had to whitewash anyone, we would have made him Mahatma Gandhi… What have we whitewashed? Tell us his crime?”
Panchjanya, a Hindu right-wing magazine, questioned whether Dutt, son of late actors Sunil and Nargis Dutt, had qualities that should be glorified on the big screen.
“Again, where have I glorified is what I want to ask? Is this glorification that he slept with his friend’s girlfriend, kept a gun, did drugs, made a girl wear a commode on her neck? We have shown all this… Still, people are saying we have glorified his life,” Hirani remarked.
Joshi said the worst allegation was that they made the film for money.
“It is ridiculous because if money was the criteria, we would have made five Munna Bhai’s back-to-back… They would have been bigger hits, or 3 Idiots parts two, three, four,” he said.
Hirani said when he was making the movie, he was told by people that Sanju will mark his “first flop” as Dutt was a negative character.
“Now when the film has been made, everything is reversed that this has been made for money,” Hirani said.
Joshi questioned, “Do you think Hirani, at this time in his career, would spend three years of his life just to whitewash somebody?”
What upsets them is “people [who needed to introspect] have not introspected” at all.
“But the audiences have, luckily. Hats off to the Indian audience,” Joshi said.