Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sunil Grover, Tabu
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Bollywood stars have their priorities in place: To follow the golden rule that clearly gives the command for them to make hay while the sun shines. So, we have Salman Khan and his ilk that include nearly all the mainstream stars (barring some actors, of course), in a rush to exploit and capitalise on the success of a film, and seize the day.
Nothing wrong with that — after all, do we know what’s in store for us?
After the super stardom Khan has achieved, any and every film project he touches turns to gold. If only their belief in carpe diem made them a little reflective and introspective, their entitlement to fame and glory would not be so flimsy. He just does everything to prove a point though. That he is perfectly fit to fight gundas, supple enough to do the mandatory jig, is adequately charming to woo much younger twentysomethings and has abundant chutzpah to try out newer things too!
Is the ageing, or rather, already aged superhero still the undisputed king? The profiles and the numbers of his following may not suggest any dip in his popularity — it’s the long-winded tiresomeness of a script that has little to offer that may well begin to signal the demise of his superstardom soon.
Director Ali Abbas Zafar teams up with Khan yet again in Bharat (they worked together in Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai earlier) to give us a pot pourri of everything that they probably believe Indian audiences love watching. And they have a long span (1947 to 2010) to justify the inclusion of almost every emotion — from slices of history to scenes of familial bonding, friendship, love for the motherland, Indo-Pak Partition, the circus, separation, love, romance, India’s 1983 World Cup victory, the 167-minute film packs in everything punctuated with songs and dances too, even if factual inaccuracies are glossed over.
In the midst of a wide-ranging subject, what forms the crux is Bharat and his mother (Sonali Kulkarni) and sister Mehek (Kashmira Irani) getting separated from his railway station master father (Jackie Shroff) and sister (Tabu), and his life’s mission to fulfil his word he made to his father as their train left Pakistan and headed towards Delhi. “Take care of the family,” is what his father had requested him to do, and Bharat vows to keep his word no matter what, till his last breath.
When the film opens, we see a rather aged Khan trying to look solemn in his grayed and bespectacled look in the midst of a loving family making plans for Khan’s 70th birthday. We are also introduced to a self- seeking broker — Gulati (Rajiv Gupta) visiting Bharat’s Hind Ration Store along with an investor making an offer to buy out their shop to make way for a shopping mall in the area.
As they travel to the railway station for the celebrations, we are taken to the India at the cusp of her birth as an independent nation, where a family is making an arduous journey from Mirpur to freedom all the way to New Delhi.
Bharat’s journey through life’s challenges would not have been complete without his childhood friend Vilayati (Sunil Grover), his aunt (Ayesha Reza Mishra) and uncle (Kumud Mishra).
Bharat’s trials and tribulations seem more heroic than worthy of any sympathy. The choices that he makes may look like his obvious options that were available as per the era chronicled, but clearly, they have all been squeezed into the story to accommodate Bharat’s larger-than-life’s persona. Therefore, his working as a stunt driver in the Great Russian Circus Where he falls for the trapeze girl Radha (Disha Patani) as one of the ambitious Indians digging oil in the Middle East (where he meets his lady love Kumud (Katrina Kaif) to his stint at the merchant navy to help himself make a living and support his mother and sister, it seems that writers Zafar and Varun V. Sharma were looking for some elements of novelty to move the narrative forward.
With so much material to chew into, one would feel excited to peep into Bharat’s long ride that sees many ups and downs. Surprisingly, except a few scenes from the Partition, there’s hardly any moment with a soul in the entire film. More of a breeze with as many sequences thrown in for good measure, it is Salman all the way even as a bunch of talented actors like Kumud Mishra, Shashank Arora and Sonali Kulkarni come and go, leaving behind little impact. Only Grover as the best friend has some valuable contributions to make — he juggles between his undying love for Bharat and a few scenes of comic relief whenever he tries to fit into the scheme of things.
Khan remains stoic to all that takes place around him. And, we know it by now — it’s not to add a shade to his character — it’s his limitation as an actor to do anything more. On the other hand, Kaif, whose accented Hindi could still be laughable, brings in some hope of her finally making an effort to pick up some skills in emoting. Grover makes up for all the footage that he garners.
It’s a pity that for an actress of her calibre, Tabu flits in and out, more as an afterthought to lift the already heavy-on-cast film.
To all the Salman Khan fans who scream, shriek and whistle the first few times he makes an entry on the screen, this one, like all his recent hit films, is yet another call for a celebratory triumph.
Here was one opportunity to see history unfolding in its course which has been almost-forgotten by GenNext. Sadly, too many needless ingredients are crammed into long and dull storytelling!