Sanju is a biopic of the controversial life of actor Sanjay Dutt: his film career, jail sentence and personal life.
Few lives in our times are as dramatic and enigmatic as the saga of Sanjay Dutt. Coming from a family of cinema legends, he himself became a film star, and then saw dizzying heights and darkest depths: adulation of die-hard fans, unending battles with various addictions, brushes with the underworld, prison terms, loss of loved ones, and the haunting speculation that he might or might not be a terrorist. Sanju is in turns a hilarious and heartbreaking exploration of one man's battle against his own wild self and the formidable external forces trying to crush him. It depicts the journey of a man through everything that life can throw at him. Some true stories leave you thinking "did this really happen?" This is one such unbelievable story that happens to be true.
- D. N. Tripathi, a biographer, attempts to write a biography on Sanjay Dutt, comparing him with Mahatma Gandhi. An angry Dutt has him thrown out. The Bombay High Court delivers its verdict regarding the 1993 Bombay bombings and sentences Dutt to five years jail term for violating Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). Manyata Dutt approaches Winnie Diaz, a London-based writer, to write Dutt's biography and present his story to the public. Although unwilling at first, Winnie is threatened by Zubin Mistry, a former drug peddler turned builder to not write the biography, which intrigues her and compels her to do so. Winnie first interviews Dutt, and his life is revealed in a flashback.
The son of Sunil Dutt and Nargis, Sanjay's father plans to launch his acting career in Bollywood with the film Rocky (1981). Upset over his father's controlling behaviour on set, Sanjay is encouraged by his friend Mistry to try drugs for the first time. Sanjay soon discovers that his mother Nargis is suffering from cancer and is taken to New York for treatment. This incident furthers his descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. He meets Kamlesh, a fan of Nargis, in New York, and they become quick friends. His ongoing drug addiction results in the eventual breakup with his girlfriend Ruby. Nargis passes away three days before the release of Rocky, which takes an emotional toll on Sanjay. Sanjay agrees to attend a rehabilitation centre in the United States, and eventually recovers with the help of his father and Kamlesh. On returning to India, he meets with Mistry and beats him for selling him drugs.
The later part of Dutt's life is narrated by his now-estranged friend Kamlesh, who Winnie tracks down. In the 1990s, Sanjay turns to bodybuilding and his career in Bollywood has greatly improved. After the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, Sanjay acquires three AK-56 rifles to ensure the protection of his father, who had by then ventured into politics, and sister, Priya Dutt. A series of bombings occur in Bombay shortly thereafter. Sanjay is arrested in 1993 for possession of illegal arms supposedly supplied by the D-Company to be trafficked for protection during potential communal rioting after the bombings. Sanjay is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for five years, threatening his career. Indian media labels him as a terrorist, further tarnishing his public image. Believing Sanjay to be guilty, Kamlesh severs ties with him.
After his release in 1997, Sanjay appears in a string of flops. When his popularity had begun to wane, he is signed for the title role in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003), co-starring his father. Sanjay's performance garners him a Filmfare Award and his public image improves, making his father proud. Shortly afterwards, his father passes away. In 2006, the Bombay High Court finds Dutt guilty under the Possession of Arms Act. Between 2005 and 2007, he is arrested on two short occasions but is granted bail, allowing him to work in films. In 2013, he is arrested again by the verdict handed by the Supreme Court of India. He convinces Winnie and Kamlesh of his innocence by blaming the media for falsely accusing him of terrorism, and is subsequently released from prison in 2016 on account of good behaviour.
Sanjay reconciles with his friend Kamlesh and finds out that Winnie has completed writing his biography, titled Kuch Toh Log Kahenge (translation: People will keep saying something), named after one of his father's favourite songs.