It has been 15 years since Munna Bhai MBBS released and even though an entire generation only knows Sanjay Dutt as the lovable goon Munna, the older generations know how this film resurrected Sanjay Dutt’s career as well as image.
Even though Sanjay Dutt was doing a plethora of films in the late 90s and early 2000s, there was hardly anything that had a deep impact on the audience. Before Munna Bhai came along in 2003, his last memorable performance was in the 1999 film Vaastav. Sanjay’s image was that of a bad boy. Even his comic capers with David Dhawan could hardly do anything to wash that off but with Munna Bhai, things took a turn.
Sanjay Dutt played Munna in a way that many mistook it for his natural self. Munna was a goon but in a Robinhood-esque way. He was all for justice, he wanted to protect his parent’s feelings and was happy to play carom with an old man whom he held as a hostage. He was a ‘gunda’ but the kind who meant well.
The film resurrected his career and brought him to limelight for all the good reasons. He found fans in little kids, older people and even those who had seen his Khalnayak days. Despite all the controversies that surrounded him for the most part of his life, Sanjay was perceived as a likable person who had lost his way. He came from a respected family and his actions had brat written all over them.
In the business of movies, an actor is usually associated with the kind of characters he plays and Dutt made the maximum out of his Munna Bhai image. He got another shot at it with Lage Raho Munna Bhai and this time the love just poured because now, the goon was a follower of Gandhi.
Munna Bhai was Rajkumar Hirani’s first film as a director. Today he is known as the director with a midas touch but back then, he was a newbie who was trying to prove his talent to the world. Hirani showcased the fine art of balancing comedy with emotion which is quite rare. The comedy wasn’t preachy and the jokes from this can still make one laugh even 15 years later.
It is often said that a film can find a place in the classics only when it delivers on some memorable dialogues and moments. Munna Bhai had a ton of those, be it the Jaadu ki Jhappi or Anand Bhai’s bed, the film left a mark on all accounts.
15 years later, Hirani is making a film on the actor who was his first leading man. A lot has changed since then. Hirani has become one of the most respected filmmakers in India and Dutt too, had quite a roller-coaster ride. Munna Bhai MBBS was a turning point in both their lives and a decade a half later it still stands as a significant landmark.