Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Reviewed by Sarhan Rashid
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Writing Credits: Vidhu Vinod, Rajkumar Hirani, Lajan Joseph, Abbas Tyrewala
Cast: Sunil Dutt, Sanjay Dutt, Gracy Singh, Arshad Warsi, Rohini Hattangadi, Boman Irani
Year Released: 2003
If you're prone to ridiculing the Bollywood style of movie-making, then please don't bother reading this review, as Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. is a typical "masala" film, i.e., you get all the ingredients typical of such a venture - the song and dance sequences, the comedy track, emotions running on overdrive and an all too convenient ending.
However, if you're one of the viewers who loves Bollywood features for their simplicity and vibrancy, whether it is in the dialogue, costumes or sets, than you'll be delighted by this movie.
The story revolves around Murli Prasad Sharma, better known as Munna, played excellently by aging heartthrob Sunjay Dutt. Munna is a goon, but prefers to think of himself as a "Social Worker" who fixes other peoples problems. With the help of his buddies, including his hilarious sidekick Circuit, played by the ever dependable Arshad Warsi, he goes around aiding those who have been wronged. Only once a year do Munna and his friends drop all their "social work" and convert to another profession - being doctors.
All this to please his father (played by his real life father and Bollywood veteran Sunil Dutt) and mother who visit annually from the village. It is only when Munna's secret is revealed by Dr. Asthana (Bomen Irani) that Munna decides to stop deceiving his parents and become a real doctor. That's when the fun really kicks off.
What follows is a "Patch Adams" style comedy about healing people with laughter. But that's where all comparisons end. Sanjay Dutt puts on the performance of a lifetime as the title character enacting a wide range of emotions with ease. Unlike many of his peers who have created numerous memorable title characters from Mr. India (Anil Kapoor) to Shaheenshah (Amitabh Bachan), Dutt finally creates his own with Munna Bhai.
Of course credit should go to the scriptwriters (Rajkumar Hirani, Lajan Joseph & Vidhu Vinod Chopra) for writing such a lovable character but it's the casting of Sunjay Dutt instead of the original lead Shahrukh Khan that helps elevate this enterprise.
The film not only possesses all the content necessary for it to succeed in the domestic market but also everything that should please international viewers. If the comedic bits have you laughing nonstop, then the emotional scenes will definitely have you reaching for a pack of tissues.
Kudos must go out to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who's last two efforts at commercial cinema (Kareeb (1998) & Mission Kashmir (2000)) received mixed response from the critics and the public alike, for creating one of the best movies of the last year. His long time assistant Rajkumar Hirani handles the directorial duties and does a fantastic job for a first timer.
Sarhan Rashid is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org