Written by Manisha Lakhe on June 5, 2019
Too Swacch This Bharat Is.
Bring Back Dabanng.
Bharat is a good guy, and though he promises that his life has been more colorful than the salt in his beard, the film does not live up to that promise. In fact it is so boring, you wonder if ‘bhai’ has forgotten his fans come to watch ‘action’ not wimpy comedy. We live through his many jobs and his devotion to dad. It’s two and a half hours of being average. Fans want more.
It’s Eid, and therefore Salman Khan fans are out in full force to watch Bharat. There are hoots and whistles when that familiar walk on the silhouette shows up on screen, but there’s no thunder and lightning, there are no villains flying in the air, there is no ripping off shirts. It’s Salman Khan as Bharat, celebrating his 70th birthday.
He begins to tell his story to grandkids about how during partition, his mother, brother and sister and him climbed up on the train and the gorgeous father climbs down because little ‘Gudiya’ slipped back on to the platform. The father is Jackie Shroff, the Station Master who manages to give little Bharat his watch and extracts a promise, you will keep the family together and wait for dad to get to the Ration store in Delhi…
Sonali Kulkarni plays the mom who cuts a tragic figure that stitches something on the sewing machine to help make ends meet. Kabir Sajid is the little boy who plays Bharat, and alas, makes sure he’s ‘acting’ (wide-eyes, fear, happiness… His emotions are studied, but who cares, it’s Bhai’s movie!). In the aftermath of the Partition, Bharat meets Vilayati (a Muslim lad who gives us a lesson in National Integration the moment we meet him: We haven’t gone to Pakistan because this is our country and will always be so on…). Bharat and Vilayati become friends for life. Vilayati grows up to be Sunil Grover. He’s the one decent role in the entire film. He’s Bharat’s one man support system and a partner in everything good.
Yes, everything Salman does is good. After all, he’s Bharat. He even sings the National Anthem in the film (makes his fans wake up and stand in a flurry of popcorn!). This kind of forced patriotism in the film makes you want to weep.
Bharat grows up to be Evel Knievel in the Great Russian Circus. But he’s so good, he gives that awesome job because ‘many kids will want to emulate this dangerous stunt’ and chooses to wait to be employed. He’s so good, he dances with pirates on a merchant ship (no leaf chewing wicked Somali pirates here a la Captain Phillips, but pirates who dance to Bachchan songs!). He’s so good, he saves all the miners trapped in the mines a la The 33. He’s so good, he won’t marry Katrina Kaif because he cannot divide his love for the family with her… Whilst you gag at this ‘good’ guy thing, you’re hoping for some ear-splitting action a la Dabanng.
The audience sighs through tamer and tamer songs, and you see people checking their messages on the phone until the fifteen minutes to the end, when four motorbike riding goons attack Bharat with tube-lights. A roar goes up in the audience but the four go down easily. And so does the excitement.
The film has a couple of funny moments, but the ordinariness of his life needed more than Sunil Grover dressed up as Bharat Maa or his sister fall for Jawaharlal Nehru…
Katrina Kaif too has many jobs – from employment officer to supervisor in an oil field to news reader (a la Salma Sultan) and Creative Director of a TV channel to hausfrau who is really in a ‘live in’ relationship with Bharat – and you are happy she is made to dance to some strange not so hummable Hand-pump song. Her dialog delivery remains as strange as ever. Why make her say words like, ‘namankan patra’ (candidate registration papers for election)?
Bharat grows older visibly, but his screen mom and other characters don’t. They just wear glasses. We follow Bharat’s life through India’s partition up until 2010. And you as audience watch every year go by excruciatingly slowly.
(this review appears on nowrunning.com )
(this review appears on nowrunning.com )