About the story: Murli Prasad Sharma, aka Munnabhai (Sanjay Dutt), is the leader of a small-time crook gang, and together with his right-hand man Circuit (Arshad Warsi) he turns Mumbai upside down. However, he told his parents Shri Hari Prasad Sharma (Sunil Dutt) und Parvati (Rohini Hattangadi) that he has become a doctor, and in order not to betray their pride for their son, he turns his headquarters into a hospital every time they come to visit him. But one fine day Shri Hari is told the the truth about his son’s profession by his acquaintance, Dr J. Asthana (Boman Irani). As Munna realizes how deeply he has hurt his parents, he decides to really become a doctor. Of all places, Circuit chooses the college and clinic of Dr Asthana for Munna’s studies, a place characterized by Dr Asthana’s strict and disciplinary rules which Munna with his unconventional views cannot understand and accept, so he immediately starts shaking things up thoroughly. While Munna is falling in love with Dr Suman (Gracy Singh) without knowing that she is his childhood friend Chinki and thus Dr. Asthana’s daughter, the clinic staff and patients more and more take Munna into their hearts and defend him passionately against every effort of Dr Asthana to finally get rid of the gangster once and for all...
I admit straightforwardly that I’ve fallen in love with this film. A comedy with a deeper meaning and a hanky factor, and a beautifully arranged cast. For the role of Munnabhai, this lovable crook rising to godlike status in the recognition of his fellow men due to the goodness of his heart, Sanjay Dutt is simply perfect: an extraordinary actor, blessed with an unusual charisma, a natural lovableness, a charming smile, a brilliant humour and a strong sense for emotions – and once again he unconditionally throws all this into his role. The result is a mind-blowing role portrait – a gorgeous performance for which Sanju was rightfully rewarded with a number of awards (Filmfare Award for best comedian, Stardust Star of the year Award and Bollywood Movie Award as Most Sensational Actor; adding to this nominations as best actor at the IIFA Awards, the Sansui Awards and the Star Screen Awards). Arshad Warsi’s Circuit also is an award-winning study without any weaknesses, and his chemistry with Sanjay is terrific. Gracy Singh cannot really keep up with her great partners, but all in all her performance is okay. Jimmy Shergill plays the small, but nice role of Zaheer beautifully and touchingly. Boman Irani evades cliches instead of selling his character out for the effects: he's mean, but not a classical goon, funny, but not a comic relief. Hats off!
This is, by the way, a special attribute of this film: It is toned down and more subtle than usual. It uses one or the other plot cliches of the Hindi Cinema, but always a bit more downshifted than in other films. The gags, twists and emotional scenes don’t come with a bang but happen quasi in passing and naturally. Even the moralizing sequences are presented without a dominating hint. And who can resist Munnabhai when he, with his "jadoo ki jhappi" (magic hug), brings sunshine into the joyless lives of the people around him, fulfills a last heart’s desire of Zaheer who is dying of cancer, or when he with his loving care brings back into life paralyzed Anand Banerjee (Yatin Karyekar) who had been degraded to an object of study. Munnabhai may be a gangster, but his soul is innocent like a child’s, and he thinks and acts in a more human way than others who might consider themselves of higher moral value just because of his profession - for Munna’s thoughts and actions are spontaneous and come directly from his heart, and they are not manipulated by discipline-stuck or bureaucratic ways of thinking.
The most touching scenes are of course those revolving around Sanjay and his father Sunil Dutt (standing in front of the camera again after ten years and despite a broken shoulder) – especially when you know about the very special father-son relationship they shared: Munna’s facial expression when he realizes how much he has hurt his father with his lies, or the reconciliating hug of father and son in the end, all this love and gratefulness Munna is putting into it – that is not merely acted by Sanju, that’s genuine. Because for him, it was not his film father standing in front of him but his real-life father for whom he indeed feels all this love and gratefulness after all the heavy crises they have suffered through together. It is simply beyond belief that this was the only time ever that these two great personalities of the Hindi Cinema were granted to work together in front of the camera, and watching the beautiful chemistry father and son Dutt shared on the big screen just hardenes the pain as it's clear that after Sunil Dutt's death in 2005 there is no chance to make up for this default.
By the way: Vidhu Vinod Chopra had originally planned the role of Munnabhai for Shahrukh Khan (while Sanju was casted for the role Jimmy Shergill took on later) who is even thankfully mentioned in the end credits. But because of his urgent back operation he had to walk out of the film. And though I surely can imagine Shahrukh in this role – in this case I can live splendidly with the "replacement solution". Because Sanjay Dutt simply IS Munnabhai, it is the role of his life and besides Khalnayak the one his name will always be associated with in the future. Especially since three years later, together with his congenial partner Arshad Warsi, he even topped this film with another brilliant performance in the sequel Lage Raho Munna Bhai.
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. is entertainment and enjoyment without remorse. Highly recommendable. Even for those who are no Sanjay Dutt fans in particular – in this point Munnabhai definitely has the potential for conversion. Just like it says in the tagline: "Statutory warning – he might just cure you!"
Produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra; Directed by Rajkumar Hirani
155 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (including songs); the DVD also contains a Making Of.
© Diwali; Translated by nandini67
P.S.: Sanju even cures himself with this film. According to Filmfare 7/2004 he downloaded his favourite parts from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. to his mobile – to watch them in hard times.
P.P.S. Dr Asthana's memories / Sanjay Dutt in the end credits of the Telugu remake Shankar Dada MBBS (2004)