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Bharat Is A Flawed But Monumental Achievement




Starring  Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sunil Grover, Disha Patani, Jackie shroff

Directed  by Ali Abbas Zafar

Rating: ****(4 stars)

It’s easy  to be  dismissive of a film that has no formal structure, one which doesn’t compartmentalize life’s flow…but chooses to go with it.The flow,  I mean.

 But then again,it take  salmost three  hours of playing time for us to realize that Bharat is  no small achievement.  Like Sultan before this, director Ali Abbas Zafar doesn’t hesitate in blowing open Salman Khan’s image  of  the  Superstar who always plays variations of himself.

 In some of  the sequences in this  episodic endearing  oddball  off a film Salman invests genuine emotions.Watch him  closely in  the sequence  where he is reunited with his sister whom he has  lost  in the  tumult  of  India’s Partition in two badly divided  halves.  Salman achieves great heights  of emotionalism in   that beautifully written  chunk of cinema.

Of course  it helps that Tabu plays his sister in that  highly emotional sequence. Tabu can bring out the best in anyone.The  rest of  this  interesting  often brilliant but  uneven film is not as articulate as one would like it to be. Much  of the adventures that  Bharat and his faithful sidekick Vilayati(Sunil Grover,  funny  and  engaging) go through seem strangely incongruous: shrill notes  of  a symphony that  never quite reaches a  crescendo. The journey seems  to have  plenty  of  genuine  emotions.  But  the  sleeping dogs are aplenty. That entire  oil-rigging  episode seems  rigged and thoroughly undercooked.

Why  take the protagonist’s journey into such a  distance where it becomes  difficult to tell what he was looking for in the  first place? Some  moments meant to be the acme of hilarity  just fall flat writhing on the ground. For example the  way  Bharat  pacifies Somalian pirates on board a  ship(don’t ask what he’s doing there) with Amitabh Bachchan songs  is  embarrassing in  its  out-of-tune humour.

 It’s commendable that this one-man show(with some surprising room  made for two other characters played by Sunil Grover and  Katrina Kaif)  actually takes a pause to  honour  men from Indian history  like  Jawaharlal Nehru,Sachin Tendulkar,  Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and , ahem, Manmohan Singh who at  time when the Congress I is rendered  nulled, is praised  for his economic reforms.

Director Ali Abbas Zafar  and his co-writer  Varun Sharma never  hesitate in  craning their necks out into the dark stretches  of  narration where the protagonist Bharat’s life goes willy-nilly. It would be erroneous  to say Salman Khan holds  the  film together. He should have, as  the  narrative relies entirely on his ability to  carry the narrative from one  historic  period to another.

Tragically the changeovers  in  era lack a mood modulation. One  minute we are  looking at the savagery and  brutality of  the Partition violence. The  next minute we are at a circus where  Salman and the  monstrously  underused Disha Patani(what is  she  doing here?)  behave  as  if they just watched Raj Kapoor in Mera Naam Joker.

The problem with Bharat is  one of  concentration. It lacks  focus and builds its universe  of  mutating socio-historic  events with  a lack of  dispassionate distance.Where Salman  is unconvincing as an aging  man, he nails it when  trying to express his feelings  to  his ‘Madame Sirjee’. In his scenes with Katrina Kaif, Salman is  as  respectful and  shy as he is known  to be in real life.

Watching Bharat I  felt a strange stirring of hope and  joy. The film spreads a sunshine across its  tapestried universe . But it fails to  provide an even narrative  soundboard   for its  protagonist whose life hardly seems as illustrative of India’s chequered history as he would like us to believe. Not always  credible, Bharat nevertheless manages to never loose  its  composure. It is  an achievement  of epic proportion which losses some of its greatness in trying to say too many things at  the same  time.

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