Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt seems to have broken all box-office records and earned over 150 crore rupees in the 4-5 days since its release. It has proved not only Hirani’s abilities as a filmmaker who can extract great performances from stars (nee actors) but also catapulted Ranbir Kapoor back to the front-and-centre of Bollywood, where you’re only as good as your last few films. In doing so it has been lopsided in its narrative in glorifying Sanjay Dutt and, what is personally deeply problematic, vilified the media, in a country that is the world’s largest democracy.
Hirani and the producers of Sanju perhaps don’t live in the India that I inhabit. Perhaps Bollywood is cocooned in a mist of luxury, with a serious coating of fluff and make-believe. But in a country, where at least seven journalists have been killed in the last 18 months, Hirani and his ilk would do well to remember that shooting the messenger but failing to see (and perhaps propagate) that message is a great disservice to the society and the nation. This is the freedom of expression that they have, this is the freedom that this democracy affords them, the freedom that is defended vociferously by members of the fourth estate day-in, day-out.
There are journalists and then there are journalists — the same tabloids that spice up the headlines are also the places where most Bollywood stories are planted, promotion deals made and paid reviews written. It is a Frankenstein created by the glitz and glamour of the multi-million dollar film industry and perhaps at the behest of a few corporates who twist it to their advantage.
For most part journalism (and I mean this word in its strictest sense) remains the least corrupt profession. It isn’t the best paying profession, the hours are long and the circumstances trying. Perhaps Rajkumar Hirani should try his hand at working 365x7x24 for bit (for the wages that most journalists make) and give up the creature comforts his status as a ‘numero uno’ filmmaker in Bollywood afford him. Try reporting from a Naxal hit area, being in a conflict zone or reporting on floods, or riots…
Here is a great angst-ridden example from the film that make Sanjay Dutt a hero - and paints a sorry picture of the media. This is the impression you are left with as the end credits roll and you walk out of the theatre.
Chappi jiski khabar, bani uski khabar,
Kisi high court ka usko nahi dar…
Loop mein ghumake ek jhooth bar bar,
Sachhai ka diya usne phich**** ph***
Jhooth itna bada hai, ki saach ho gaya,
Baba bolta hai abhi, bas ho gaya.
There are many stories in the mainstream media that have painted Sanjay Dutt as the long-suffering hero — and Hirani (with Dutt in tow) have neglected to take those into account and taken media-bashing to a new low. Perhaps those stories were convenient but no mention is made of those. Instead Sanju singles-out two instances where question-marks were used in the headline. And this isn’t just a matter of semantics, its where a newsperson’s habit of quoting sources is questioned. If sources weren’t quoted, then most news wouldn’t be printed - that I can vouch for with my 18 years in the industry. And while I’m not a great fan a question marks in headlines either, what of the one big question mark that’s still hanging over Sanjay Dutt? Was his liaison with the underworld just a one-time affair and lead by this great need for ‘self-preservation’ as the film out have us believe?
Here’s what I can safely say — most ground reporters have a great passion for news , and in disseminating what they believe is news they earn two squares a day and perhaps some creature comforts. And then a film like Sanju comes along and in the name of creativity reinforces this stereotype of a media that lacks credibility and all that we do is for eyeballs. That’s burning me at the stake. Criticise my handling of a situation as an editor or a reporter - sure, that’s opinion that I’ll take on board. But when you build a whole two-hour plus narrative around media-bashing, it reeks of an agenda.
Besides, what is wrong about trying to sell newspapers or increasing the TRPs of channels? The media in this country is primarily in private hands and isn’t a charitable business. If the slightly saucier headline gets more people to read it, blame it on the consumers of news and not the journalists.
Surely if Rajkumar Hirani was trying so desperately to get the story out there, he would have made a documentary with the actual people involved in the narrative. Instead, with song-and-dance, he made a multi-starrer with some of the biggest names in the industry and a story line that features just two of Sanjay Dutt’s films — his first one Rocky and Munnabhai MBBS (a film that made Raju Hirani). That’s far from ‘not trying to make money’ and ‘being honest’.
This witch-hunt has gone on for long enough- news need not be convenient and no one needs to empathise with the big Bollywood stars when they commit misdemeanors. Boo-hoo the punishment is harsh, boo-hoo the star has to do jail time but remember that the star also got furlongs galore— and got them out of jail card on the slightest of pretexts.
No Mr Dutt, you aren’t a hero for having kept an automatic assault rifle in your house and the media wasn’t responsible for your being booked under TADA. No Mr Hirani, making a dishonest biopic doesn’t absolve you of the sin of tarring the media and being an irresponsible citizen to boot.
Media Bolta Hai Ab Bas Ho Gaya. FULL STOP.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)