He’s 70 but has no wrinkles that come with age. He still has a muscular body and no evidence of arthritis or other physical ailments most septuagenarians do. No we’re not talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone here, they’re old. We refer to Bollywood’s ageing bad boy who refuses to grow up—the ever ‘young’ Salman Khan aka Sallu Bhai who stars in and as “Bharat” in his latest installment of a ‘patriotic family action drama’. The film opens with a 70-year-old Bharat (Khan) narrating his story. With the filmmakers clearly failing to make Bhai look any older, we know from the first couple of minutes how realistic the film is going to be. “Bharat” is an excruciatingly long (155 minutes) attempt to make Khan look good from all sides. It fails, and exposes his lack of acting skills, while still offering a few lessons to the audience.
Lesson number 1: No one can pull off the India-Pakistan partition scene in mainstream Bollywood better than Sunny Deol and his hand-pump. All other attempts are futile and the subject has been so repetitive in Bollywood that it has probably desensitized the new generation to the ordeal of people from both the sides.
“Bharat,” based on the 2014 South Korean film “Ode to My Father”, tries to do a lot of things, especially from the patriotism angle, within one feature length film and thereby destroys a story that could have been deeply moving. We’ll forgo the plot here so that you can watch “Ode to My Father”, oblivious of Salman Khan and his team’s shenanigans. This brings us to lesson number 2: If you think a movie might be too patriotic to care about the basic storyline, give it a miss.
Lesson number 3: Any movie with Gutthi, sorry, Sunil Grover is bearable because of his consistent and clever comic relief. Playing Vilayati Khan, Bharat’s devoted childhood buddy, he gives a healthy pace to the movie with his faultless comic timing; we sometimes wonder why he’s not a bigger superstar than Sallu Bhai. But that’s Bollywood for you.
The recent Salman Khan movies have all made huge money thanks to the legions of Sallu bhai’s undaunted fans—the bhai army—and this one crossed the 100 crore mark in a couple of days. But even his hardcore fans will feel “Bharat” lacks the one thing that has always been the trademark of Salman Khan movies—good music. Looks like the recent India-Pakistan rift has taken a toll on Khan’s new movie too. Some of his most popular songs of late had the voice of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan while he romanced with co-actors half his age. (Jag Ghoomeya from ‘Sultan’ and Tere Mast Mast Do Nain from ‘Dabang’.) But sans the Pakistani maestro lending his voice to Khan in “Bharat”, there’s not a single memorable song. Lesson number 4: Salman Khan needs Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to look and sound romantic onscreen.
End of the lessons and time for special credits. Katrina Kaif playing Bharat’s love interest Kumud Raina, who he refers to as ‘madam sir’ throughout the movie, looks beautiful as always and has evidently improved her acting and dancing skills, and also her Hindi.
But without a proper backstory for her character, and with her Anglo-Indian accent, she is not convincing as an Indian government employee. Special mention should also go to Jackie Shroff who plays Gautam Kumar—Bharat’s father. The veteran actor holds solid ground on whatever little space he gets and sometimes we wonder how much stronger his character could have been if he had a better son, in reel life.
Who should watch it?
Besides Bhai’s unfaltering fans, anyone who loves elaborate Bollywood dramas might enjoy the movie. Comedy is definitely a genre Khan cannot fail in and the film does have its fair share of laughter. Also, Disha Patani and Nora Fatehi light up the screen in a couple of item numbers, worth watching for audiences of all ages and sexes
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Jackie Shroff, Sunil Grover