This film is larger than life right from the get go
Ali Abbas Zafar directed ‘Bharat’ has finally released after months of making headlines – more for Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s exit than anything else. Starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, the first trailers and songs offered what looked like an all-round entertainer with the former playing a character who ages as the story unravels. With a host of talented actors as part of the ensemble cast, does ‘Bharat’ really fulfil all it looks to promise?
Bharat (Khan) is a boy in pre-partition Pakistan, who overhears a conversation suggesting that Hindus should leave the area. He explains this to his father (Jackie Shroff) who assures him that he’s strong enough know that this isn’t true. Eventually, the family are forced to flee. As his father protects his wife and two younger children, Bharat is left to fend for his sister Gudiya and make sure he makes it on the train with her while his parents and younger siblings go ahead. As he loses his grip on Gudiya depite making it on the train himself, his father goes back to find his daughter, leaving behind his family and telling Bharat that the family is his responsibility. This moment shapes Bharat’s life from then on, as he makes his way through all the challenges life throws his way. Will he be able to fulfil his father’s wish?
It has to be said that this film is larger than life right from the get go. Zafar manages to weave between the ages with ease but sometimes the cracks do show. Having said that, he portrays Khan in a good light – as he has previously in the few times he’s directed him. The character of Bharat is an interesting one but he is depicted by Zafar as being relatively flawless. For a film that takes inspiration from the Korean film ‘An Ode to My Father’, this is disappointing for the Indian audiences who are developing and in an age where content on the web is being hailed and changing the status quo. Zafar’s direction in the most part is great for the genre the film falls in but it seems in many places he rushes through the plot and packed in so much that it’s easy for the audience’s attention to be divided.
As far as performances go, Khan plays a character who ages from being in his 20s to being 69 – on the verge of his milestone 70th birthday. Although this is not the kind of role he’s been seen in before, there is a real struggle to pinpoint why he’s taken on such a role at this time in his career. After the dismal reception ‘Race 3’ (2018) and ‘Tubelight’ (2017), one would’ve thought that he would’ve learnt from the success that came with ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ (2018), that content really should be of paramount importance. Instead, this Hindi adaptation seems to move too fast in the most part but too slow in the climax, placing Khan’s performance in jeopardy of being borderline annoying and rather too showy for the audiences. On the other hand, Kaif as Kumud is a breath of fresh air because this is a new character completely for her. She is desi, outspoken, not afraid of showing authority and very straight-talking. She also ages through the story along with Khan although this detail has been missed from any headlines until he film releases. The beauty of Kaif’s performance is in her shudh Hindi and her chemistry with Khan which is, quite often, the saving grace in so many places. Khan and Kaif’s chemistry is one of the film’s good parts but no doubt many would have wanted to see this portrayed in a more strong way than it has been. Khan’s best friend Vilayti is played by Sunil Grover who is one of the best characters all through. He provides the much needed support and realism that the film needs at the best of times and he fits in well in the character – showing his subtlety, comedy and emotions in all the right places. Shroff as Khan’s father is one of the film’s highlights, showing that he simply hasn’t aged at all and can rule the screen even after all the years he’s been gracing them. Other notable performances some from Sonali Kulkarni, Shashank Arora, Kashmira Irani, Nora Fatehi and Disha Patani – however, many of these add to the family feel but they don’t have too much impact. Tabu’s cameo provides one of the film’s highlight scenes but if only the entire film had the same sentiment.
There are a few catchy number in the film like Slow Motion, Aithey Aa and Turpeya which seek to create a longlasting impression but fail to do so. Even seeing them on screen doesn’t leave too much of an impact, unfortunately.
To conclude, ‘Bharat’ is a film which definitely had a lot going for it on paper. In reality, it sadly fails in too many places – the biggest of these being that it falls flat in having a soul for the audiences to connect to. Like a number of Khan’s movies in recent years, this one seems to only scratch the surface of what good cinema the audiences are seeking. Yes, the Khan name along with Kaif’s glamour will give it a great opening at the box office for Eid but it will not be a film many will watch more than once if at all. The larger than life treatment does the story absolutely no favours.