Bollywood’s favourite good guy Rajkumar Hirani has done it again – delivered yet another blockbuster namely Sanju. Of course, the film which has thumbed its nose at the media has been accused of whitewashing Sanjay Dutt! However, those who follow Hirani’s cinema with interest or know him well would be familiar with his preoccupation with simple lessons of life. His films starting with Munnabhai MBBS have always had an Aesop’s fable like quality be it Jaadu ki Jhappi, Gandhigiri or his questioning of fake Godmen who propagate superstitious practices for their own gains. Sanju, even though it is a biopic, is neatly aligned with Hirani’s filmic sensibilities.
An admirer of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Guru Dutt’s works, the director has shown great mastery over an easy, humorous telling of stories with some gentle, well-meant advice thrown in. A salient feature common to all his films including Sanju is the centrality of the father-son relationship. It stems from his own deep-rooted fondness and respect for his father who he thinks was particularly outspoken especially for those who were weaker. “Dad had a huge influence on me. I really look up to him for his brave acts. He was an outspoken man. For him, if it was the right thing, he would stand up for the smallest guy around him. I guess I get attracted to those things. Even (in Sanju) when it came to the parts about Dutt saab and Sanjay, I was attracted to those parts. Similarly, friends have always had a similar influence in my life. I have had lovely friends. Even in this film that part attracted me. In Sanju there are too many colours. Some other filmmaker could have taken a dark side to that story. A film (story) can be told in different ways. My natural bend is to get attracted towards things that have been an influence in my life,” he explains.
It is evident that Hirani holds his friendships close to his heart. Among his friends and colleagues, his co-writer Abhijat Joshi is ‘a divine soul and a fantastic man’. Aamir Khan’s commitment and dedication to films is of another level, avers Hirani, while producer-mentor Vidhu Vinod Chopra is someone for whom he has a lot of affection for ‘the things he does for me’ and yet they have many fights too. As for actor Boman Irani, he quips “I think I have taken more holidays with Boman than I have with my wife.”
Interestingly, Hirani’s wife Manjeet is a pilot and an author to boot. They had an arranged marriage which has been rock solid despite the vagaries of their very disparate and demanding professions.
That Hirani is quite the doting father to son Vir follows is perhaps stating the obvious but his parenting methods can sometimes be rather unconventional too. Sample this – he once pranked Vir into an important lesson about drinking. It so happened that the youngster was inviting friends over and thought it would only suit the occasion if alcohol was served. After all, they were 18! Despite his initial reservations, Hirani gave in and the party was proceeding smoothly till some cops showed up checking for their licence to consume alcohol. Needless to say, all of them were flustered till they realised that the cops were actors and Hirani had pulled a fast one on them. It was a light-hearted attempt to make them aware of the various scenarios that could arise out of a seemingly harmless fun.
There are other unexpected truths about Hirani too like the one instance during his stint at FTII when he did the unexpected—roundly criticised filmmaker Jean Luc Godard which didn’t go down very well with his teacher. After being unable to sit through Godard’s film Weekend which had been screened multiple times for the benefit of students of the film appreciation course, he critiqued it thus, “Godard is rightly called the bastard of cinema.” It obviously did not earn him any brownie points with the professor who however, did grant him the right to criticise the revered filmmaker. He landed a ‘B’ in the paper.
Between then and now, Hirani quite evidently has not changed. He continues to speak his truth quietly and firmly, regardless of whether it earns him bouquets or brickbats. Just the way his father would have liked him to.
Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author and digital media specialist.
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