Raju Hirani`s Art of Filmmaking: Sanju`s Behind the Scenes Saga

While biopics have come and gone, Raju Hirani has his own way of working things around. Here’s chronicling the man behind Sanju and his penchant for exploring human follies

By Neha Jha

Jun 26, 2018  Updated On : Aug 27, 2018

Raju Hirani’s much ambitious project “Sanju” is all set to hit the screens and we couldn’t be more excited. He had this thing in mind for so long that he felt it compelling enough to halt the shoot of the next instalment of Munna Bhai. What’s so compelling about Sanjay Dutt that Raju Hirani, one of the foremost filmmakers of the country, decided to make a film on the actor before anything else could take place?

For starters, Raju Hirani says the film does not seek to glorify Sanjay Dutt or provide a justification for his actions. Sanjay Dutt himself gave Raju Hirani permission to make the film in his own way and that he wouldn’t really make any changes to it. How did this idea come to him?

The Initiation

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In one of his interviews, Raju Hirani described how when Sanjay Dutt’s wife Maanyata was in the hospital, he would come home to an empty house and feel extremely lonely. That was when he opened up to Raju and narrated him several anecdotes about his life. The director, who is known to make films which are rooted in reality and do not present any differing sides to what already exists. Raju Hirani is also the co-writer of the film and delved into meticulous planning to ensure the story of Sanjay’s life is told in an enigmatic manner. “His life is a gold mine for filmmakers,” he said, thus mincing no words when it comes to accepting that bad choice in life make up for really good stories to be told on the silver screen.

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But, that is what one can expect from Raju Hirani. All his other blockbusters - from the Munna Bhai series to 3 Idiots and PK - have all been about ordinary people, hailing from small towns in extraordinary situations. He has long been touted as Bollywood’s miracle maker. His stories range from the simple and the subdued to a larger than life personality battling with the problems life throws at him, in this case, it is Sanjay Dutt.

The Bridge from On screen to Off screen

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Ironically, in 1993, when Sanjay Dutt was arrested for possession of AK-56 rifle, media touted it to be a blockbuster in making. The life and times of one of the most controversial actors make for a great story onscreen, for many. Though many actors have committed crimes before, Sanjay Dutt took it upon himself to go through it all. He served a five year sentencing in 2006 and did what every prisoner there is required to do. Putting all of those experiences, coupled with his film career and personal life, in a span of 2 and a half hours is an uphill task.

However, Raju Hirani has always put a lot of himself in his films. The ragging scene is 3 Idiots was inspired by what he faced as a young student in the most reputed film school in India. Making his actors go through the process themselves was another marked feature they had to take into consideration. For all we know, there will always be a subtle difference between Sanjay Dutt and Ranbir Kapoor who plays the maverick actor in the film. Going through several rounds of imprisonment, getting out of jail on parole to shoot his sequence in a film and the hellish experiences he had owing to his tryst with the underworld are experiences which the latter has no idea about. For someone who has never experienced anything even remotely close to this, Ranbir Kapoor has a lot to prove.

Ranbir as Sanju

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But Raju Hirani had no qualms about casting the actor. Though the producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra thought Ranveer Singh would have been a better fit since he does infuse himself completely into the character, he was stumped to see Ranbir Kapoor perform so brilliantly well. For most parts, the crew on set could not distinguish Ranbir from Sanjay Dutt when he moved around in his get-up. Ranbir was hesitant since he believed Sanjay Dutt is a living legend. But, as he himself said, the script broke certain notions he had about Dutt.

Whether or not Sanju “teaches” anything to its viewers is something only time can tell. For a man who had not minced words while saying he was indeed associated with the underworld and did turn a drug addict from a very young age, the makers say it shows the man with all his flaws and human temptations without forcing any sympathy from the viewers. Going by the films that Raju Hirani has made so far, none of these was propaganda films, intending to put forth the story from a particular point of view. And Bollywood biopics have always placed more emphasis on achievements, making movies on people who went from zero to hero. This, on the other hand, is the opposite of that, chronicling the turbulent life of an actor born to superstars of Indian cinema, his success in Bollywood despite debuting with a flop film, his meteoric rise to stardom and then, subsequent fall from grace with underworld links and drug abuse. This is basically how life happens!

For Bollywood lovers, who have long been fed the notion of the hero screaming from the rooftops about justice and social equality and driving his emotional fanbase crazy, the whole scenario involving actors like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan who have been involved in serious crimes is something new. And, let’s not forget, unlike Salman Khan who has been the “hero” in almost all his films till date (even in Tere Naam where he played a wayward guy), Sanjay Dutt had been typecast for a while in roles of gangsters (read Vaastav, Daag: The Fire) thus promulgating that image. Of course, the entire hoopla around his life being projected on screen will only fuel the fire!

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