Interview By: Sagar Desai

His films work on the emotions of LCD (Laugh, Cry and Drama) and his upcoming movie is on the life of Sanjay Dutt and just like his previous blockbusters, this film is also high on drama. Rajkumar Hirani in a very calm and casual manner is talking to us about his upcoming film SANJU and tells us what he thinks of Sanjay Dutt as a person and much more.

How did you decide to make SANJU?

See firstly, once Manyata had said to me that why don’t you make a film on Sanju’s (Sanjay Dutt) life, so the first reaction was that Sanju’s life is a dark life, a life on drugs, underworld, and this is not my territory, this does not inspire me. Then after a few months, Sanju got out of the jail on parole, so I went to meet him, when I met him, it was a curiosity for me to know that how you spend time in jail, how do people stay in jail, how it is, what they do and all. So he started talking to me from evening 5 till 3-4 net morning and I came back, next day he called me and I was doing my work – PK’s editing was going on, he asked me to come and meet him and I realized that when a person is alone, he knows that he has come for a limited time, so he started talking about his life – what mistakes happened and what not and I again stayed there till late night, It was that day when I realized that I have worked with him in two films but my relationship with him was just like how it is between an actor and director. It was not as if I was his very close friend and I knew about him and his life. First thing I came to know about him is that I didn’t know about him and whatever I knew about him was what was written about him. It was then, that I called Abhijaat and said him that what Sanjay is saying is interesting and you also join me, then we went next day and kept on going every day for 25 days and in this we felt that there is a story here, so for me the story was that apart from what others know and it also has a father and son story. What kind of a relationship he had with his father and what his father went through in that journey was very interesting, then there is a story about his friend who stays in US, which was also interesting and many more things started happening but we had no idea about how we will make this film but I was like lets listen, something might just come out and after one point we were writing Munna Bhai and we kept that aside and started working on this as we were getting such a rich material.

How did you adopt this film to your territory, as this still has its darkness?

See all that is there but what happens is that I think every writer or director or anybody when you hear a story, forget Sanjay Dutt, any story, for example – Premchand or any other, if you pick up a story and give it to a five directors, then every person will make it according to his/ her essence, so this story is such, where if someone liked thrillers and if you would have gone to him then he would have been attracted to a different side of the story, for example a Ram Gopal Verma would have made on how did  he get the gun, how did all that happen, how was it destroyed, like Anurag made BLACK FRIDAY, it was a great film but the root what I was getting attracted with was the relationship between Father and Son. So I have shown all the things but for me the most interesting part was the relationships that were torn apart and was happening with everyone.

What range of his life have you covered in this film?

We have started from 1981, since he was shooting for ROCKY, there is a material of when he was a kid but what happens in a biopic is that you cannot show everything; because in 2.30 hours you have to show 50 years of a life journey, so you have to pick up some chapters and say this is relevant, so I have taken from 1981 from when he became a drug addict so I have taken that chapter and gun chapter and with those two chapters I have made the film.

Were you able to sum up his whole life in 3 hours or were there certain portions which you had to leave out?

I had to leave out so many incidents, so many things but you have to do that, you pick any biopic, my favorite is GANDHI, even when you see that there are so many things about him to say but in the film it was only about the freedom struggle. So you cannot show everything in a biopic unless it is on a certain incident like NEERJA, it was only on that incident and people will say that oh! You have not shown that and that but that is not possible.

How did this brilliant idea of casting Ranbir Kapoor come? How did you envision him in that role?

Actually, very quickly, as soon as the script was written, first of all Abhijaat and I have taken a call that while writing the script don’t think of casting because what happens is that we have not written two scenes and we start thinking that can Aamir do this, can Shah Rukh do this or can Ranbir do this and then you limit your writing, then you start seeing actors strength, his weakness. So first we don’t think of casting, then after the first draft we start thinking about casting, so when we reached that stage immediately we thought of Ranbir for one reason that the first part of the film is of 80’s, it is completely about his young days and if you see Sanju of ROCKY and Ranbir of SAWAARIYA there are a lot of similarities in terms of look, face, height, both were lean, Sanju’s entire mannerism and the swagger in his walk came when he built his body in 90’s, first he didn’t have any style or mannerisms. So after watching all that we thought this is something Ranbir will be able to do in the first half, the challenge was how will we match him now, so I thought lets meet him and see how can he convert and we did a lot of hard work, everyday for 3 months we kept on doing prosthetics test and this test and that test, it used to fail, for five hours he used to sit and do makeup and all and in 30 seconds we used to think this is not working, now something new and after three months, we felt that we have got this was when the Sanju look in blue shirt got matched when he is coming out of the jail, we thought we have got this.

What about the idea of casting Paresh Rawal because everything of his is so different from Sunil Dutt?

See, that was the most challenging thing for us that who do we cast as Dutt Sahab, so we considered a lot of actors, tried a lot of actors with looks as we got success with Ranbir and we knew now that we can show him from 21 years to 50 years, so  we thought that we can do the same with Paresh Ji but in that journey we realized that to make someone old the tool that we have is beard, hair make it white or through wig but Dutt Sahab had left no option for us as his hair remained black thought his life, he never kept moustache or beard, then actually we gave up and decided to forget matching the look and see who can play a father’s role and who can catch the ethos of a father and work only on that and forget to match because that is not possible, than we met Paresh Ji and did readings and in that one reading only I realized that he is fantastic because people have seen him comedy roles and he was very excited that he was getting a different role to do and in that one reading I realized that he is a fantastic actor and he will do it.

Before the shooting started, there were a lot of interactive session with the cast so what discussion took place during those sessions?

Sessions are always there, in this film most important with Ranbir was that if you are making a biopic on a person whose face is not much known by the people like some historical figure or someone who is not much in public domain then even if you don’t match 100 percent with that person it won’t matter much but here Sanjay Dutt look is in front of your eyes or if we won’t be able to match the look with him, it won’t look nice, so for that it was very important and a lot of hard work was done to match Ranbir’s look with Sanjay Dutt. When we felt that okay we have got the look and not that we have to match 100 percent else it will look fake only, then for Ranbir the big concern was look is done but that is not everything, he has to now feel what went through with Sanju, so on that Ranbir has done a lot of hard work, he would quietly call Sanju in night and ask him about what emotions he was going through on certain incidents, so Ranbir was imbibing certain things slowly, he started using the same perfume that Sanjay Dutt uses, he got the shoes made because he thought that Sanju swagger walk comes to him with a typical size of shoes. So like this a lot of small –small things were done.

All your films had a message, so what message are you trying to give here?

See, I don’t think that someone should compare with the old films because every film is different and even before I did not want to give any messages through my films, it just used to happen that people removed a certain message from those films. I never thought to give a message on education and made 3 IDIOTS, MUNNA BHAII M.B.B.S was an entertaining film, the idea was never to give a message, just something used to come out from that, so I am hoping that some kind of message comes out from this movie also because this actually is a life of a person who has made mistakes, may be people will take away that oh! We should not do such a mistake, so I don’t know what people will derive from this.

Will this movie affect his image?

For me the most interesting part was that Sanjay was so brave to say that make how you want to make because even if once he would have said that don’t show this or that then I would have not made the film because I then would have made something else, I would have made MUNNA BHAI, so he was brave enough to say this things, so when you will see the film, you will see his 1000 flaws but I think that even after seeing his 1000 flaws you will still think that this is a good man because I think that majority of us do have a cynicism in us and we do become a bit judgmental at times. I say that if you will start judging people then you will not able to love any person, a lot of people’s perception is built through judgment only.

How do you describe Sanjay Dutt as a person?

I find him as a survivor, I think that the kind of life he has lived, when we see it from outside. You may not understand much but if you closely see you will find that he is a survivor. He just survives everything, he survived drugs and everything else and so he is a survivor according to me.

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