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Bharat Movie Review: Salman Khan Plays Gloriously to His Strength

Bharat Movie Review: Salman Khan Plays Gloriously to His Strength

Salman Khan's Bharat falls short of becoming a tour de force, but it could surely turn into a massive crowd-puller.

Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Disha Patani, Sunil Grover, Tabu and Jackie Shroff

Salman Khan’s latest Eid offering is likely to get off to a rapturous start. One got a hint of what was in store as soon as Khan walks into the frame as a grizzly, 70-year-old Bharat! That’s right, he does play a septuagenarian but one with a flamboyance that even a 30-year-old would envy.

The film is an official adaptation of the Korean film An Ode to My Father (about a man who longs to see his father and sister separated from him during wartime). Here the director adapts the story to the epic-like saga of Bharat (Salman Khan) a child of the independence-partition era and creates a metaphor of sorts for the larger idea of the country as a family.

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The opening scene of a new world order or rather new market forces trying to replace the old one quickly plunges us into a flashback of Bharat’s life adventures. In the beginning, is a heart-wrenching incident from the partition that separates the family paving way for Bharat’s arrival in the freshly minted India at his aunt’s house in Purani Dilli.

Along his journey, Khan finds himself a friend for life– Vilayati (Sunil Grover) and together in search of livelihood, they set off on many an unexpected adventure. Their first one turns Khan into a daredevil motorcycle stuntman in the circus who aces the Maut Ka Kuan act. This slick sequence is replete with clever references to the circus act that inspired Amitabh Bachchan’s My Name is Anthony Gonsalves song. Tragically enough, the stint at the circus comes to an abrupt end after a mishap and then starts another journey where Khan meets Kumud Raina (Katrina Kaif) or ‘Madam-sir’ before embarking on yet another excursion.

Bharat is a slice-of-life story with maturity and restraint often lacking in a typical film featuring Salman Khan. Director Ali Abbas Zafar mounts the subject well—he seems to be a natural at mega movies. For a story that attempts to be a commentary as well as a saga spanning decades, Zafar exercises great control and prevents it from going off the rails. But he manages just by the skin of his teeth. Khan’s bravado and over-the-top signature style combine well with the restraint in Zafar’s film-making tonality. What doesn’t gel is the plodding script, which attempts to cram in too much to showcase the heroics of Bharat.

Had Zafar sacrificed at least one of the less relevant anecdotes from Bharat’s life, the script would have been lean and taut. A bloated script makes room only for a cursory glimpse at the events reducing even the critical turning points into casual occurrence. Sharper, more brutal editing could have also helped the film enormously and perhaps even turned it into a classic, but unfortunately, it just falls short, weighed down by the lumbering narrative.

The one thing that salvages this tragic flaw is Salman Khan. He is in good form, playing gloriously to his strengths. His performance is endearing and restrained, probably one of his best. A scene that stayed with me is the one where his friend Vilayati tells him to let go of the hope of meeting his father. Katrina Kaif’s yet another performance that stays with you. An expected outcome of this film could be that Khan is likely to set a new benchmark for how 70-year-old men should look like. Khan’s co-star, Kaif delights with her new attempts at serious characters. She embraces the brusque, no-nonsense Kumud, wrinkles, grey hair and all with a panache that surprises you. As an actress, she certainly displays the maturity of a seasoned artiste. It would be pertinent to point out that the most heartwarming and genuine on-screen moments are between Khan and Kaif.

For a film like Bharat, Vishal- Shekhar’s music with songs like Slow Motion and Chashni suffice, but rarely break out. Zinda, is an exception that stays with you for a while.

For all its virtues, Bharat falls short of becoming a tour de force, but it could surely turn into a massive crowd-puller.

Rating: 3/5

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