Bharat: Salman Khan resorts to pop patriotism, familiar tropes to dilute a soulless drama
Bharat is supposed to be the journey of a man and a nation together, but the man in question, Salman Khan, often becomes bigger than the whole nation.
This is a first impression review of Bharat. Read Anna Vetticad's movie review here.
As its synopsis suggests, Ali Abbas Zafar's Bharat is the journey of a man and a nation together. But the parallel tracks often derail when the man becomes bigger than the nation itself.
Spread across six decades, Bharat actually feels as excruciatingly long as the period from 1947 to 2010. While a 70-year-old Salman Khan can still bash up a biker gang, the audience feels it has grown several years old within the span of 167 minutes.
Bharat drains you out not because you invest all your energy in rooting for its titular character's journey but because the soulless direction, the convoluted screenplay and the fatigued acting ensure your spirit gets bogged down multiple times throughout the film.
Bharat is the remake of the Korean film Ode To My Father. Here, the titular character gets separated from his father (Jackie Shroff) and sister during the refugee crisis in Attari at the time of Partition. As per his last conversation with his father, Bharat promises to take care of his remaining family, mother (Sonali Kulkarni) and two siblings, till his father returns. His life evolves from a circus stuntman to a coal mine worker in the UAE to a shop owner. Throughout his life, his concern for family drives his decisions. He even decides against marrying his love, Kumud (Katrina Kaif), a headstrong government official, because he fears his love and attention will get divided.
Katrina's character provides the spark that remains painfully absent throughout the film, particularly because of the tepid central performance. She owns the character, especially in the silent scenes. Her bits with Salman, when the two are in their late 60s, make for the most well written parts of the film. Though their make-up is still a distraction, their mutual comfort, coupled with an organic flow of dialogue, makes the audience imagine the kind of lives both characters have lived.
But the rest of the film relies heavily on formula, the brand of Salman Khan, and the framework of the original film. Ali barely has any value to add through his interpretation besides changing the geographical context of the film. That area also remains barely tapped into because there are only passing references to Indian milestone events like the 1983 World Cup and the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, that barely intersect with Bharat's life in a significant way. Rajnish Hedao's production design, Alvira Khan and Ashley Rebello's costume design, and Varun V Sharma and Ali's writing are also completely unaware of the times they attempt to recreate.
Julius Packiam's background score and Marcin Laskawiec's cinematography are in awe of Salman, and rarely move away from him to depict thrilling sequences like the Globe of Death sequence from Bharat's younger days. Salman may have the crutch of selective close-ups and Rameshwar S Bhagat's strategic editing but he is miles away from reflecting the sea of emotions his character is supposed to harbour. He only appears comedic in the emotional scenes where he tries too hard, falling flat on his face.
Mukesh Chhabra's casting ropes in an interesting mix of faces. Jackie serves as the emotional core of Bharat and makes the audience feel like it is experiencing a different film during the refugee crisis sequence. The earnestness in his voice and the intensity on his face are the traits Salman needed to embody for the rest of the film.
Though Salman does make his voice sound more hoarse to depict old age, his body language remains as stiff when he is 20 as when he is a senior citizen. The VFX and prosthetic departments struggle to pull off his 20s look. Besides Salman's youthful charm, there is nothing going for him. In fact, the older Jackie does a much more convincing job of looking young.
Disha Patani barely has a couple of scenes and a song to her credit. She is decent in the bidding-adieu scene and is naturally great at dancing. But her chemistry with Salman is not established to the extent that the audience feels bad when the two part. Sonali Kulkarni and Shashank Arora (Bharat's young brother) emote their parts to perfection. Satish Kaushik provides brief comic relief and Tabu makes a special appearance suited to her calibre. But the lackadaisical treatment of the film completely wastes a seasoned actress like her.
Overall, Ali fails to extract an effective performance from Salman, like he did in Sultan. It is a pity because unlike Tiger Zinda Hai, Bharat is supposed to be rooted in reality. But since the leading actor does not realise this, Ali is probably compelled to retort to tropes like traditional hero-beats-up-goons sequences, smartly choreographed (Vaibhavi Merchant) songs with catchy music (Vishal-Shekhar) and lyrics (Irshad Kamil), and the trump card of pop patriotism in scenes where even Salman cannot defy logic.
In those key scenes, the nation gets an edge over its superstar. But otherwise, the man is given far more footage than the nation. It is a Salman Khan show throughout, except he has barely anything to show here.
All images from YouTube.
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