Every time Sanju interacted with a woman on screen, while his Hirani-esque biography was at play, I squirmed. I'm not sure if everyone else did, and that's the point. The men, and some women, laughed along, as Sanju, played by Ranbir Kapoor, denigrated woman after woman in the latest movie because it's too adorbs ya, and why not indulge the man when he's had SUCH a hard life?
Sanju has had all sorts of compliments and condemnations lodged against it, but why aren't more people talking about the very toxic masculinity? Throughout the 2 hour 40 minute film, the fictionalised Sanjay Dutt is shown living up to and popularising the myth - you're a stud if you're a man, slut if you're a woman.
Sanju at one point tells his potential biographer Anushka Sharma that he has slept with 350 women (safety ke liye 350 likh lo) as she laughs and his wife looks on indulgently. Sure, if it’s consensual and welcome. But would the uproariously laughing audience have laughed just as uproariously if a female actor were delivering the same line? Possibly not, since Dia Mirza’s Manyata Dutt is a kindly soul who smiles along indulgently as her husband hits on Anushka’s character in the film, and speaks of his own conquests to a grinning Anushka. (And you can, of course, forget about the Bechdel Test. Don’t make me laugh, come on.)
At another point in the same movie, Sanju sleeps with his best friend Kamli's girlfriend, and when said best friend finds out about it the next morning, he casually dismisses it by saying "but you owed me a girl anyway'!" Later, when the best friend and he make up after a long impasse, Kamli tells him to "quickly find a girlfriend for himself so he can return the favour". Bhai, waah!
Also, what is Sanju's go-to line after what should have been an unforgivable impasse? "Dude, main to sirf check kar raha tha if she was faithful to you. But clearly, her character is questionable since she slept with me so easily. You should find someone else." Yeah, man, obviously.
Because your gaffe is a goof that folks in the theatre can laugh along with benignly, squealing, "Oh, Sanju!" while the woman is condemned to wear the Scarlet Letter.
See, you could argue that this is ALL for the sake of ‘realism’. That Hirani, Ranbir Kapoor, nay, the whole team, is just playing up a character so that you know how wrong his actions are. But, do you, really? Do you really leave theatres, like a unanimous, collective consciousness, berating his choices and wishing he’d made better ones and been a feminist? Nope. You largely indulge, forgive and forget. And that’s the problem with Bollywood’s depiction of largely chauvinist characters. No condemnation of his choices throughout the filmy narrative, either implicit or explicit - and therefore, no lessons on gender equality for the audience to carry home.
Sanju treats each and every woman in the film like a conquest and Hirani, instead of pricking that inflated male ego and showing everything that's wrong with that attitude, just puffs him up further. High time Bollywood stopped normalising this misogyny, no?