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Differently flavoured journey of a nation through a common man

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Film  Review                                                                  Bharat

By SUNITA VIJAY

“May you live in interesting times”, professing to be a blessing, is in fact a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. The expression’s paradoxical derivation is what we witness in the ‘interesting’ and ‘risky’ life of the protagonist in Bharat, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar. An adaptation of Ode to My Father, a 2014 South Korean film, one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Korean cinema, Bharat, on similar lines depicts crucial events starting from post-independence days to 2010, through the life of an ordinary man, a role played by the extraordinarily magnetic, crowd-puller star, Salman Khan. Bharat (Salman Khan) is seen as an elderly 70 years old man in the beginning of the film before going back to the partition days where a family is fleeing from Pakistan trying to catch a train to India, their last hope of survival. It’s a well-crafted scene which runs high on emotions when a couple of family members are left behind amidst the backdrop of over-boiling anger in an armed crowd, visibly making the viewers anticipate the fate of the left ones. In that crucial moment, the father tells his son to take care of the mother and two younger siblings while the family patriarch leaves them to look for a daughter who is stranded in the crowd. The boy, Bharat, being the elder-most male of the family, lives up to the promise, follows his father’s ideologies for decades, devoting everything to the family. Bharat’s character and journey has the reflections of Forrest Gump. Just like Gump, Bharat is focussed, sticks to his word and morality in all times while getting involved in several of the country’s defining developments as the movie progresses. Bharat embraces daring tasks like riding motorbike to amuse audience in the maut ka kuan in the Russian Circus, going to Middle East to work as a worker in the oil wells, his brief but thrilling tenure in a merchant ship that is attacked by pirates, his stand to discourage erection of a mall in place of small shops etc. Bharat is an ordinary man but his journey is remarkable. He has heroic qualities. He follows his heart’s voice more than the intelligent command of the brain. And it works for him. He is selfless, fearless, brave, strong, charismatic, and blessed with a negotiable tongue that wins every momentary conflict in his favour. The story is interesting but it runs through unexplored scenes, scratches the surface a bit and moves forward without giving an insight. If it’s a Salman film, we expect the grandiose sets, and the cast no less than Sonali Kulkarni as mother, Jackie Shroff as father, Kumud Mishra as drunkard uncle, Disha Patani as childhood friend, Katrina Kaif as his love and Sunil Grover as his soulmate. All this makes one expect a blast but it manages to entertains only in parts. The emotive scenes leave the eyes dry and songs seemed to be misplaced, even when they manage to distract and bring cheer. Few large scale sets are impressive but they do not match with the time period. The circus sets and crew, the dance sequence in Malta, the dance number with Katrina and Salman, the dialogues at various joints, etc., never make us believe that we are in 40s or 60s or 80s respectively. Still it amuses sporadically. Abbas knows his craft well. There are weaknesses but some scenes are shot with extreme brilliancy although half-baked efforts overrun the intention. Interestingly, when the ship is attacked by dreaded Somalian Pirates, we expect either a combat or a befitting conversation from Bharat’s side to resolve the problem. But it turned out to be a not-that–funny comic scene, a completely unbelievable outcome with pirates dancing on Amitabh’s songs. Those looking for logic may not enjoy Bharat completely but Salman fans will be treated with the different stages of Bharat’s life placing him in varied adventurous arena in segments. The director’s attempt to stir our emotions in the Zee TV initiative to reunite the family members from both sides of borders does melt emotions. Salman is better as a senior citizen. He acts outstandingly well in the latter part of the film. All characters age with grace in Bharat but strangely, Salman’s face is made to age and not his physique and style of walking. In a fight scene towards the end, to everyone’s surprise, Bharat at seventy blows down four motor bikers who come to assault him with the agility of a young man; a hard to take scene. Katrina for the first time holds her character tight. In her curled locks and loosely tied hair, she looks beautiful in all stages of life. She is a confident and bold woman who is no less than Bharat. Salman and Katrina light the screen with their cute romance mostly displayed through their teasing conversations in the frames they share, with endearing chemistry exhibited. Sunil Grover as Vilaiati, Bharat’s best friend, remains an integral part of Bharat’s journey, a partner in crime in true sense. Both make a terrific pair as soldered mates. Sunil gives an electrifying performance maintaining full control over his comic timings. Bharat lives seven lives and travels seven seas! In short, with too many time leaps, too many things happening in the film, there is no place for boredom. It’s an exhausting watch but Salman’s magic works while Katrina and Sunil add more spice in this grand tour. Putting too many ingredients in one recipe is a sure shot intention to make it a masala film but in this pursuit talented actors like Kumud Mishra, Shashank Arora, Sonali Kulkarni remain constrained and many incidents look forceful while others needed more probing. Salman is a crowd puller. The jam packed halls advocate so much. He proves this through one of his dialogues in the film, “Yeh sher buddha toh ho gaya, par shikar karna nahin bhula”. That his fans left behind the first World cup match in the current series, to see their hero in action in a film that is not perfect but still an ‘interesting’ watch, goes to say a lot about the never-dying Salman magic.