Bharat Review - Not Exactly an Ode to the Nation, But Thankfully an Engaging Saga
When news first broke out that Salman Khan was going on to remake the Korean hit film “Ode to My Father” (2014), I was frankly quite skeptical of the move. After all the experience of Salman’s Tubelight, strangely a remake a rather unnoticed American film, Little Boy (2015) was still fresh in my mind. Not to forget that his last 2 Eid outings have been damp squibs, Tubelight and of course last year’s Race 3. But the redeeming factor if any here seemed to be the choice of the director, Ali Abbas Zafar. I say this because Ali Abbas Zafar has had a successful partnership with Salman Khan so far, their previous 2 outings being Sultan (2016) and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017). Not just did both of these films turn out to be money spinners but the former is widely regarded as one of Salman’s career best films and performances. The promos and songs of Bharat have been encouraging, so I was curious to find out if “Bhai” was back with an Eidi to make his fans happy this time.
Irrespective of whether you’ve watched Ode to My Father or not, the promos of Bharat have been pretty honest in terms of telling us what to expect from the film. So the film is the story of Bharat (Salman Khan), who witnesses the horrors of the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, an incident that tragically sees his family getting divided while attempting to flee from Lahore to Delhi. Bharat lives on forever thinking of his father’s request, that of ensuring that he take all the efforts required to keep the family together. Hence he does everything possible to earn an honest living and keep his mother and siblings happy, while never shying away from his guilt of losing his father and younger sister as they were about to move out of Pakistan. The film takes us through the journey of Bharat from 1947 to 2010, which includes various interesting stints including work in a circus, in an oilfield in the Gulf and on a merchant navy vessel as well, all of them making his life colourful.
Strangely the first half of the film has nothing that you aren’t aware of already. So we see Bharat landing up in Delhi with his family, finding a friend for life, Vilayati Khan (Sunil Grover), going through interesting life altering experiences and meeting the love of his life, Kumud Raina (Katrina Kaif). But also credit to Ali Abbas Zafar for managing to adapt the original Korean screenplay into a Bollywood set-up without diluting the core theme and yet keeping it relatively rooted enough for us to connect. Ali Abbas Zafar is also aided in this endeavor by his dialogue writer, Varun V. Sharma who brings quite a bit of sparkle to the proceedings. The post interval portions bring in some gravitas, soon bringing into focus an emotional core, but thankfully without going overboard. In fact, the second half portions carry a flavor of Bajrangi Bhaijaan but the influence is purely due to the source material and not otherwise.
Vishal-Shekhar’s songs work quite a bit, a far better output from them compared to their recent release, Student of the Year 2. Marcin Laskawiec’s cinematography is a highlight of the film, capturing the visual splendor of the outdoors wonderfully. While the film is a complete Salman Khan vehicle, it’s also good to see a few other actors also getting good screen time. Jackie Shroff as Bharat’s father and his role model is good, while Sonali Kulkarni as his mother is effective. Kumud Mishra, Shashank Arora & Aasif Sheikh play other prominent family members and get noticed while Tabu is seen in a brief cameo. Disha Patani hardly has anything to do but nevertheless sizzles in the “Slow Motion” song (vocals by Nakash Aziz and Shreya Ghoshal, lyrics by Irshad Kamil). Sunil Grover as Vilayati is a total delight, balancing both humour and emotion very effectively. Katrina Kaif makes great use of the opportunity given to her, complimenting Salman wonderfully and making you smile on a lot of occasions. The on screen chemistry between the lead pair is a big plus for the film.
Salman Khan does pull of Bharat in style, this is a space that he’s gone on to get comfortable in of late and he doesn’t disappoint at all. While he does show flashes of his larger than life avatar in the film, this one is not exactly an out and out mass outing from him, but something aimed at being totally family friendly. The end result is not an epic of course, not even close to it despite the scope it had, however it’s a sincere effort from both Ali Abbas Zafar as well as Salman Khan. If you are going in expecting something explosive and/or larger than life, then you could be disappointed. But otherwise this is an Eid outing at the cinemas that’s worth checking out.
Ali Abbas Zafar’s combination with Salman Khan does manage to stay relevant with Bharat, despite not having the charm of Sultan or the zing of Tiger Zinda Hai.