In a startling confession, acclaimed filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani has confessed that he ‘whitewashed’ the image of Sanjay Dutt, in his latest movie ‘Sanju’. The director wanted to create an empathetic image for the tainted actor, as per the confession.
In a conversation with screenwriter Anjum Rajab Ali at the Indian Film and TV Directors’ Association’s special masterclass, Rajkumar Hirani told about how people hated Sanju’s character in the initial test screenings. To quote him, ‘……In fact, when the first edit was ready and we screened for people, they hated him. They said we don’t like this man, we don’t want to watch him,” he said. “Because I wanted to do a true story, I didn’t create any empathy towards him. I said let’s not create empathy and show (him) as he is. But later I understood that he is our hero, we need some empathy for him……..’
He further added, “I’m aware of the criticism that the film never questions Dutt’s intentions as each time it was either with good intentions that the bad choices were made or he was victim of certain pressure. But I’m critical of Sanju’s actions, though I believe the actor could be flawed but always harmless.…….He goes and sleeps with his best friend’s girlfriend but there isn’t any reason. Their friendship was almost jeopardized… The other scene where he puts the commode seat on a girl he wants to marry, I am not defending that! It’s a terrible action…..”
To be honest, this sets a very bad precedent for the coming future of Bollywood. Movies are normally regarded as a nation’s ‘soft power’, and they help in setting the nation’s discourse. As such, whitewashing the crimes of a known criminal and showing him in a positive light, leads to glorification and romanticization of crime,which is clearly evident in movies like ‘Sanju’.
This is not the first time someone has glorified a tainted personality through a movie. Bollywood is rather notorious for it. Be it Phoolan Devi in ‘Bandit Queen’, or Muhammad Azharuddin in ‘Azhar’, or even the Naxal movement in ‘Chakravyuh’. Bollywood is well notorious for their part in glorifying dreaded criminals/scamsters, with movies such as Paan Singh Tomar, Shool.
As such Rajkumar Hirani was only repaying his debt to an actor, who was instrumental in his burgeoning rise as a filmmaker through the ‘Munnabhai series’. Instead of portraying truthfully the tale of an actor, whose inner turmoils and absurd decisions not only jeopardized his own family, but also the security of the nation, through Black Friday blasts.
With the confession of Rajkumar Hirani, we know that Bollywood is far from heading for improvement in its film-making standards. Though it’s a delight to see a refreshing relief like ‘Parmanu’, it won’t become a norm until we socially boycott every movie that is hell bent on portraying India and her customs in a negative light and dreaded criminals or shady celebrities in a positive one. We hope the Bollywood is listening, if at all they are.