Can Ranbir Kapoor’s Sanju be as great as these 5 biopics on actors?

Published On: June 26, 2018 09:55 AM NPT By: Agencies

As we inch closer to Sanju, several unanswered questions remain. Will the film really be an unbiased look at Sanjay Dutt’s life? Will director Rajkumar Hirani’s overpowering sweetness temper some of the harsher realities of the life Sanjay lived? Will this be Ranbir Kapoor’s performance of a lifetime?

We don’t know, because biopics in India have only gained popularity in the last decade or so, and even then, they’ve mostly been restricted to sportspersons, or gangsters. There have been films that have claimed to be inside looks at the film industry, sure, but no names were taken, no fingers pointed. But Sanju hopes to buck that trend. Through Hirani, perhaps one of the most sympathetic men in Sanjay Dutt’s life, the film has all the opportunity to break the glass ceiling and to introspect.

We might not know what to expect of the film, because there really isn’t a frame of reference, but we can look for clues in some of these other biopics of actors. These films may vary in quality, but they all share that one crucial aspect that even Sanju seems to have embraced: compassion for their subjects.


Perhaps the earliest sign of Robert Downey Jr’s talents, and for many years, seen as a sign of what could have been. Directed by Richard Attenborough, the 1992 film earned Downey Jr his first acting Oscar nomination but lost millions at the box office. Downey Jr famously entered the worst phase of his life after this early success, and bounced back almost two decades later, with his second Oscar nod, again for playing an actor in Tropic Thunder (although this time it was for a fictional dude disguised as another dude).

James Dean

Everyone who has every looked at James Franco and thought ‘wow, he really does look a lot like James Dean, doesn’t he?’ is in for a surprise. Franco did play the ‘50s Hollywood icon, the Rebel Without a Cause, in a 2001 made for TV movie. But simply being born with that face wasn’t enough for Franco to bag the role; it is said that he auditioned among 500 candidates for the part, which he researched thoroughly. Like Downey Jr, Franco has also gone on to achieve great things, including an Academy Award nomination.

My Week With Marilyn

Of all the films made on the tragic life of Hollywood’s greatest icon, My Week With Marilyn is perhaps the most unique. For one, it takes the same approach as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, in that it focusses not on Marilyn’s entire life, but, as the title suggests, on just a week. You will need to get over the unfortunate fact that it is produced by The Weinstein Company, but Michelle Williams’ performance will help you in that regard. For more Marilyn stuff, be sure to check out the musical TV show, Smash.

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush plays the great Peter Sellers in this made for TV film, which shows the comic legend as a tormented genius who suffered immensely in his personal life, and struggled to be seen as a respected actor. Sellers, despite falling into some iffy traps in his time - every Indian should condemn his brown face caricature of our people - was a supremely talented actor, who during his career created lasting characters.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

There have been many films made on Bruce Lee, whose tragic real life story positively demands biopics, but the one that most falls into our overarching theme of empathy is this one, released in 1993 and dedicated to the memory of Lee’s son, Brandon. It takes a more conventional approach to Lee’s life, but also has enough visual inventiveness to make it more than just a cradle-to-the-grave biopic. It ends on a particularly celebratory note, one that Hirani should totally take as inspiration for Sanju.

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