Bharat is like a constant tussle between the director’s intent and a star’s larger than life persona. Ali Abbas Zafar, the only director to carve out the actor in Salman Khan in the last decade (referring to Sultan) or so has many plans for this movie. But he is constantly under this pressure of catering to the fans of the actor making it a discretely emotional journey of a character. And the movie prefers the star in Salman Khan rather than the actor in him.
So the story is narrated as a flashback and our hero Bharat who is in his ’70s is telling the small kids in his family about his story which starts from the time of the India Pakistan partition. His father told him to take care of everyone in the family and the movie Bharat shows us how Bharat does that by doing various jobs at various junctures in his life.
An Ode To My Father, the Korean movie on which Bharat is based on had a very normal hero whose struggle was real. So the emotional core of that movie is so strong. But here no matter how much humble Salman Khan is on screen, he is treated as a Masala Hero. So there will be flashy songs and in almost every episode of this Bharat journey, we will see him doing heroics in the most physical way. There is even a fight sequence in the movie featuring the 70-year-old Bharat. And even though the movie’s caption is saying that it is the journey of a man and nation together, you can clearly see Ali Abbas Zafar forcefully and randomly injecting historical facts to do justice to that unnecessary tagline; the most evident forceful insertion was the way they plugged Zee News into the script by talking about the economic policies of Manmohan Singh.
Salman Khan isn’t really challenged here as an actor. Some of you may think why I am talking about acting challenges in a Salman Khan Eid release. But the fact that the same director did a Sultan with him and this movie had this multiple age zones of the titular character gave me a hope that I will get to see a phenomenal acting performance from the actor and barring a few sequences towards the climax, the film is not trying to explore the actor. Post Zero, Katrina Kaif seems to have cracked the code and the actress was so good in being Madam Sir. Knowing her limitations in her dialogue delivery, Katrina has taken an effort to make her character lively and the older version of Madam Sir is just adorable. Sunil Grover is the next best performer here. Even though there are areas where he is a mere sidekick, Ali Abbas Zafar does offer the character an arc of his own and Grover scores whenever the camera focused on him. There are so many talented actors in the whole cast including names like Kumud Mishra, Sonali Kulkarni, Shashank Arora, etc who went unutilized or underutilized.
Ali Abbas Zafar wants to do the ambitious stuff here. The scale is humongous. But the problem is mainly with the screenplay that wants to create episodes in the life of Bharat that look more like bloated action set pieces. First, there is a circus, then it shifts to the Middle East, then there is a navy episode. And every episode will have an action sequence and a dance number. Some of it actually looks lame. In one Captain Phillips inspired scene there was no major action involved and in fact, it was Amitabh Bachchan who saves them from the pirates. This style of unpredictable slipping into comedy or songs just doesn’t suit someone like Ali Abbas Zafar and with all those inclusions he is diluting the original concept way too much. Even though the Television program concept was a bit unconvincing, I sort of enjoyed the emotional core of those phases. And to be honest, it’s those sequences that help the movie in making a positive impression. The songs are peppy and the background score was also impressive.
Bharat is a mixed bag. It is not really an Ali Abbas Zafar film and it is also not a typical Salman Khan film. If the approach of the movie showed us a more vulnerable and humane Salman Khan/ Bharat, and the screenplay was smoother in doing justice to the caption, Bharat would have been a better film.
If the approach of the movie showed us a more vulnerable and humane Salman Khan/ Bharat, and the screenplay was smoother in doing justice to the caption, Bharat would have been a better film.