Cast: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Amit Sadh, Randeep Hooda, Kumud Mishra
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Salman Khan has surely come a long way. From churning out mindless south-remakes to earn the moolah at the Box Office to now, at 50, choosing content-driven films, Salman Khan is making mostly the right moves and literally creating an all-new success path.
Khan's latest release Sultan is unlike a film that we associate him with. It does not follow any formula, neither does it remake a southern blockbuster. It, instead, delivers an impressive, impactful film of fighting one's inner demons and emerging as the winner. At the onset, the film is a love story between a feminist, state level woman wrestler Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) and Sultan Khan (Salman Khan), a good-for-nothing cable guy in a village in Haryana. While Sultan is smitten and head over heels for Aarfa right from the beginning - the ambitious, city-bred wrestler asks him to first rise up to her level and only then think of being an object of her affection.
A rather insulted Sultan takes it upon himself to become worthy of Aarfa’s affection and takes up wrestling only to create records at state level championship. Aarfa eventually agrees to marry Sultan and the couple train together under the able guidance of Aarfa’s father (the ever-so-dependable Kumud Mishra) and even qualify together for the London Olympics. A certain incident makes Aarfa stay back, while Sultan goes on to win gold medal for India. His success leads to arrogance and eventually creates a huge gap between Aarfa and Sultan. Dejected, Sultan leaves the ring forever. Eight years on, entrepreneur Aakash Oberoi (Amit Sadh) approaches him to be part of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament. Will Sultan be able to regain lost glory and win back Aarfa forms the rest of the story.
To its credit, the film mostly sticks to the core theme of wrestling and doesn’t waver from the main plot. Shot in actual locations of Haryana and outskirts of Delhi, the film keeps its look very realistic. Even the dialogues are spoken mostly in Haryanvi dialect. There is less of grandeur and more emphasis is given to making the premise look real.
The casting of the film is swell. A Salman Khan film ensures that maximum focus is given to the superstar and other actors are just there to provide a support. But in Sultan, supporting cast is a talented lot. Kumud Mishra, Amit Sadh, Randeep Hooda play their small parts well, matching up to Khan’s towering presence with their steady performances. Hooda, whose role is just a guest appearance, brings so much substance to his character of a dejected yet hard-nosed coach that you wish to see more of him and his easy swagger on screen. Hooda, with each passing film, proves that he is perhaps one of the most underrated actors of our times. While known faces prove their mettle, it is new actor Anant Sharma who steals the limelight with his compelling performance. Sharma plays Sultan’s loyal friend Govind with absolute perfection. There are scenes, where Sharma is merely a prop in the background yet he emotes and delivers.
But the film belongs to Salman Khan who steps out of his comfort zone and takes up a physically daunting character. At 50, he is not the fittest, but he pulls of a character almost 15 years younger with absolute ease. Sultan perhaps has Khan coming closest to playing a character this real. Matching him in every frame is the feisty Anushka Sharma who by now has aced playing the character of an upfront, no-nonsense north-Indian girl. Sultan’s’ Aarfa is no different from Shruti ofBand Baaja Baraat - both are ambitious, who have no time for love as they pave their career path.
The only flaw that the film has is that it is long. With almost 3 hour-run time, the film uses a lot commercial aspects to make it a mass entertainment which are not so relevant for the story. Like the song ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’ is absolutely unnecessary for the film. The film could have been easily half an hour shorter.
Despite a few glaring flaws, the film is worth your time and money mainly because of the coherent, good story and performances by its actors. It’s a film that has Salman Khan playing a character whose career graph has seen similar ups and downs that the actor has seen in real life. Perhaps, that’s why Khan appears this convincing.