Sanju: Is this Bollywood blockbuster whitewashing Sanjay Dutt?

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt is one of India’s most controversial celebrities. His addiction to alcohol and drugs, his alleged affairs and, most damningly, his conviction in a terror case have all been avidly documented. But a newly released biopic has been accused of “whitewashing” his chequered past, writes Aparna Alluri.

One week into its release, the film Sanju has been billed as one of the most successful Bollywood movies ever. But film reviewers have called it “dishonest” and “misleading”, while some of those who watched it describing it as a “hagiography” and a “public relations campaign” on Twitter.

Ranbir Kapoor, who plays Dutt, has got rave reviews for a raw, immersive performance and the movie has been praised for its touching portrayal of Dutt’s relationship with his unflinchingly loyal father. Otherwise, Sanju is “anything but honest” in the words of one reviewer. Another says the movie is “a largely sanitised version of the star’s life” and merely “an expensive, endearing gift from a filmmaker to his friend”. A third said it was a lost opportunity to delve deeper into Dutt’s personality because “when the film rolls to a full stop, the real Sanju is still a… question mark”.

Sanju is short for Sanjay and as the endearing nickname-turned-title suggests, it’s an indulgent tale. It’s told with affection and sympathy for the now 58-year-old Dutt, who emerges as a victim of faulty choices. The oldest of three children, Sanjay Dutt was born to Nargis and…

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