Lage Raho Munnabhai’&‘PK’ were more risky films that ‘Sanju’….’ –‘Rajkumar Hirani’ in conversation with ‘Divya Solgama’
Divya Solgama – How different is the approach when you make a film which is based on somebody rather making a fiction film?
Rajkumar Hirani – When you are doing fiction, you are in total control. For instance, if you don’t like a scene or even a climax, one can change and can do whatever with it from your mind. But with the biopic, there’s a responsibility to stick as true to its topic. So you can’t really change anything. What’s more important in the biopic is how to structure it, and also you have to compress it to show 50-years of a journey in about 2hrs 30mins. You have to make choices by choosing what’s necessary, and so you have to discard so many things. We left so many interesting stories in Sanju’s life here for the sake of sticking to core of the story. For me doing the same template kind of films, it would just like one more. However, my earlier films were different from each other, but I don’t know how my films become a message-oriented for an audience. One is not consciously trying to give a message in the film, and we always try to present a different story from my previous ones. What attracted to me in doing Sanju was that it’s never been told before, which is quite engaging and unique in nature.
Divya Solgama – Do you believe that this film might be your most darkest film?
Rajkumar Hirani – No, it’s not dark. It’s how you look at it Divya. Every film can be told in various ways and you always get pulled with respect to what you like. For me what attracted the most was Father-Son story, along with a Friendship story. Some other directors who love thriller genre, then he will certainly choose Sanjay Dutt’s dark side of stories – such as underworld and jail episode. Though these things are there in ‘Sanju’, what attracted me was that in between all such things happening in his life, what was happening in the house, with his father, family and friends? I thought these things were never been told or explored, so we decided to take on it. On the whole, it’s not a dark film, but a very dramatic emotional story.
Divya Solgama – Do you believe that it’s a risky film, as Sanju life is quite controversial and people will judge that you are simply glorifying his life?
Rajkumar Hirani – When you are attracted to a certain script, you don’t think about anything else. On the contrary, when I was making ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, every man who heard the script told me that you are mad. Mahatma Gandhi is called as Father of Nation, and how can you show Sanju drinking next to him? People also told me how can you use word like ‘Gandhigiri’ which is abstracted from ‘Dadagiri’? During ‘PK’ also, people said me how can I make film on anti-religion? I was warned that I will be in serious legal trouble because of all this. So ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ and ‘PK’ were more risky films that ‘Sanju’. However, every film might seem as risky for others. Also, some criticism would always be there and you have to be prepared for that. But you have to make a film with complete honesty, and we have just done that.
Divya Solgama – Some are also saying that it’s an image makeover of Sanjay Dutt. How much is this true?
Rajkumar Hirani – It’s not at all true. One can, in fact, observe that in the trailer itself, where Sanju is saying I had some over 300 girlfriends and slept with so many. I don’t need to make a film as propaganda for anyone. I was ready with ‘Munnabhai 3’, and I dropped that just because I found an engaging story here. ‘Munnabhai 3’ would have probably got the bigger audience for me. Also, one of the prime reasons to make Sanju was that he openly gave me permission to show such things in the film. And that’s what is more engaging – the openness of someone’s life. So, there’s no reason for me to do an image makeover of Sanjay Dutt. Why would I ruin my image to correct his image?
Divya Solgama – Was there any cross-check or verification after Sanjay Dutt told his side of story to you?
Rajkumar Hirani – Everything was being cross-checked. Though a lot of things were seemed unbelievable to me initially when Sanju told me his side of story, but then we started cross-checking every little thing and that too legally. We met police officers, lawyers, went through with his charge-sheets and judgments, etc. Once that was clear in my head, then I started to meet his family members and friends like Priya Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and so on. We must have met some 50 people before even writing the script. And now if someone points out on that, we have enough things to say and show them.
Divya Solgama – When casting was announced, some thought Paresh Rawal might not fit in playing Sunil Dutt’s character. But after trailer, everyone’s perspective was changed. So what’s your take on that?
Rajkumar Hirani – When you decide to make a biopic on someone who is unknown or not came in public’s face much, but Sanjay Dutt is a very famous actor. So we have to cast that actor who looks like Sanju, and fortunately we manage that with Ranbir Kapoor. However, we took screen-test for a number of people when it came to Sunil Dutt saab. Unfortunately, no one came even an inch close to that look. Also, when you look at Dutt saab, from the age of his 51 till his death where he was 76-year-old, he used to die his hair and never had a beard. Thus, we were not able to figure out as who would play or fit for such character. But then we decided to skip the look, and focus on rather a fine actor who one case sees as a father figure. We went on that path, and finally Pareshji came on board. On a lighter note, there was a time where we were so much frustrated and thought that the closest match to Sunil Dutt is Sanjay Dutt himself. We even thought to cast Sanju playing his father’s role in the film, but then it looked stupid. How funny that would be when Sanju saying to Ranbir as Sanju?
Divya Solgama – How Ranbir prepared himself to look-a-like Sanjay Dutt in the film?
Rajkumar Hirani – After he was on board, he came to my office for continuous 3-months and carried number of tests, and applied so many prosthetics. He was coming 3am in the night for his make-up, which was being carried out for 5-6hrs at a stretch, as shooting time was 7am in the morning. Also, he figured out by going through his pictures and videos that his way of walking and talking changed after 90s. And before that, he was quite lean, lanky and no-mannerism kind of guy. So, he really worked very hard throughout.
Divya Solgama – How different you would rate your this biopic with the earlier ones from our Hindi cinema?
Rajkumar Hirani – I believe ‘Sanju’ is quite an honest one from other biopics, because we have also shown a bad-side of his life. In fact, I keep saying that biopics become interesting when somebody makes bad choices. And Sanju made many bad choices. Well, bad choices make good stories.
Divya Solgama – What’s your thought if Sanju’s life would be made in a web-series?
Rajkumar Hirani – One can make and explore all the chapters of ‘Sanju’ in a web-series by making about 50 episodes or something, but I believe it will not be an engaging one. It will be boring.
Divya Solgama – Lastly, you recently quoted that you love to make films with Sanjay Dutt and would anyhow cast him in your films?
Rajkumar Hirani – Sanju is a friend of mine, so whenever I make a film, I want him to be a part of it. In fact, not many know that when I was making ‘3 Idiots’, I was so keen for him and Arshad to be in the film that I had written a small part for them, where they would reach Ladakh as Munna Bhai and Circuit in the film’s climax, and interact with the main characters. It was quite funny, too, but I later scrapped the idea as I thought it was coming across as a bit forced and not gelling with the rest of the film.