A couple of years ago, I was pitching a script to a producer, a script that was to do with toilets and a girl who decides to pee openly in public, as many of my blogger friends declared we should do, after exchanging lurid Indian women loo sagas. The producer said a film was already going to be made on toilets. And even if my story were hugely different, we would have lost the hook. And if you don’t have a hook, nobody goes to see a film.
So, a film about a man who will fight for a woman’s toilet. Made by a man. Because the hook is preferably always a man. Because a man does know better.
And so, ‘Sanju’. What a hook! And the film gets made. Everyone will go to see Sanju. Who has not followed avidly all the salacious gossip about him? Or anyone like him, for that matter.
And then, the film. There were some strong moments in the first half. Sanju’s struggle with drugs. His relationship with Ruby, or rather Ruby’s father. And his growing friendship with Kamli. But first of all, the film is already set up to tell you that Sanju was a good man, a misunderstood soul, hounded by the press. And second, the film soon settles into a superficial PR exercise. Why make the film at all if there are no insights you have to offer into the character, the complexity, the dynamics of the family, what one person’s addiction does to everyone else around him, the terrible jungle that a film star’s life must be, the temptations, the pitfalls?
I would have felt more sympathetic to Sanjay Dutt’s story if you had told me the story and left me to judge for myself. This whitewashing of his mistakes only gets my hackles up.
True or false does not matter in a film. What matters is its own authenticity within its own world. For a film, which talks about drugs, sex, women, crime, terror, there is very little darkness, and just a lot of adolescent misogynistic humor.
The absence of any significant woman in the film is embodied in the plastic doll wig and glassy blue eyes of Anushka Sharma. Who forgets her flourishing career as a ‘biography specialist’ to re-unite two estranged friends. Because ‘where will I get a friend like you?’ Courtesy ‘Yaarana’, (Rakesh Kumar, 1981).
‘Yaarana’ also was a story about the great friendship of two bros, but the women did play substantial roles in it. One was a mentor to the hero, though then happy to accompany him on stage. The other was the dissatisfied wife, breaking up the great friendship, then suitably repentant.
In ‘Sanju’, the women are out of focus. Women are forgotten and absent. Women conveniently die or married off, and move out of the story quickly. The irrelevance of women to the story comes true in the moment at the end of the film where Sanju hugs his wife clinically when he comes out of jail, looking over her shoulder, coming alive only when he spots his friend Kamli in the red coat of yore. Wife meanwhile has come in a bland black/grey? (see, I don’t even remember) T-shirt, not having made any effort. It’s no wonder then that Sanju thrusts away his wife and hugs Kamli, grasps his face, holds it close. There is more passion there than Sanju has shown towards any of the 350 odd women in his life.
And thus, another bro film ends. With Sanju chasing Kamli once again on his terrace, trying to catch his balls, while his wife and children look on with a complete idea of their irrelevance. Not once has Sanju played with either his wife or his kids thus. (Edited to add: Though it would be weird if Sanju was trying to get a hold of his wife’s or his kids’ balls!)
Script: Propaganda. Acting: Spoofy. Cinematography: Television. Sound Design: Hmmm. What’s that? We have background music.
I’ve been watching more and more Hindi films that have been made with a hook. The sad part is that there’s a hook, a catchy idea, and that seems to be the end of any further development of the idea.
Every time I see a film I dislike, I come home with a sick feeling. On the one hand, some one or the other I know is associated with the film. There is an awareness of just how much money, resources and work go into making a film; how much is at stake. There is a responsibility that if films succeed, the industry keeps working and the hundreds and thousands of people dependent on the industry keep working.
And yet, there is a feeling of emptiness. The bigger the film is, the bigger its star cast, the more disappointed I am when it amounts to nothing. I am resentful, why this waste of resources, you had everything, why the hell didn’t you write a good script?
But then, critics are jealous frustrated filmmakers, and journalists are only looking for gossip that sells. And as long as a film has an item number, and makes money in humungous amounts, who cares?