ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Biographic Smokescreen

On agency, or its lack thereof, and moral luck in Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju


A generation of youngsters, especially in the 1990s, came to know of TADA—Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act—thanks to Sanjay Dutt. Now, after two and a half decades, the same generation is witnessing the life of “TADA-mukta” Sanjay on screen in Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju. The film does not intend to capture the life of the Dutts in detail, nor is it an attempt at exploring a tragedy in the life of a celebrity in the Bollywood milieu of the 1980s and 1990s. It is scripted entirely to defend Sanjay Dutt, a “spoilt brat” and the son of Sunil Dutt and Nargis. Therefore, we need to ask different questions of this movie.

The entire narrative of Sanju is woven as a defence of his mistakes. Dialogues, characters, and even frames of shots serve this purpose. The film defends his many avatars: a drug addict, a womaniser, someone possessing unlawful arms, connected to the Bombay underworld, and, above all, an unworthy son of the worthy man that was Sunil Dutt. The movie successfully convinces its audience that all his vices were beyond his control; he was not solely responsible for his wrongdoings, but was just a cog in the machine. By doing this, Hirani’s account of Sanju’s life subtly shifts the moral agency from the self to the other, to the circumstances and the people around. The overall scheme of the film very deftly uses what Bernard Williams calls “moral luck” to convince us that Sanju is an outlaw, morally too, and yet he is a good man, which is also the central thematic motif in most films of this “khalnayak.”

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Updated On : 8th Aug, 2018
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