Salman Khan’s Bharat is a Desi Entertainer!

Star cast : Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Jackie Shroff and Sunil Grover
Directed by : Ali Abbas Zafar
Produced by :  Atul Agnihotri, Alvira Khan Agnihotri, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Nikhil Namit and Salman Khan under the banners Reel Life Productions, Salman Khan Films and T-Series.

‘Bharat’ is said to be the Bollywood adaptation of the South Korean film ‘Ode to my Father’. While the Korean film depicted Korean history from the 1950s to modern days, ‘Bharat’ is the story of a boy named Bharat, who pledges to his father that he will look after the family and keep them together. Bharat’s oath is taken at a tragic period when his father and sister are separated from the rest of his family when they are fleeing from Pakistan during the partition of India.

You can choose to interpret the name and the oath in many ways including the fact that Bharat is also the name of India and the hero personifies the qualities of his country as the director Ali Abbas Zafar visualizes.

The film like a massive river of several currents and confluences, that moves with several such narratives, both stated and understated. Khushwant Singh’s ‘The Train to Pakistan’ is recalled here through a child’s memory. A young Bharat watching a train full of dead bodies is a memory that would always haunt him for life. Jackie Shroff as Bharat’s father Gautam who plays a station master has a significant yet small role in the film but his persona is sprinkled throughout the narrative.

The Bharat sans a surname has a unique journey all his life – he does odd jobs to feed his large family and keep them together. Yet, in each of these jobs, he manages a crisis and is lauded as a hero. All incidents build the character of Salman Khan playing Bharat, who has never known defeat. As a stuntman in a circus, he aces the game and defeats his rivals and wins the girl’s affection. While working on a gas pipeline in the Arabian deserts, he saves his miner friends from a gas burst underground. When he is aboard a navy ship, he dances to Bollywood songs and averts a pirate attack. While some instances are believable, others we believe, given the premise of it being a Salman Khan film. Like a whole lot of Rajnikant films, logic is suspended due to hero-worship yet, at several points renewed convincingly.

Katrina Kaif as Kumud and referred to as Madam Sir, plays a tough nut to crack. Her untamed hair exemplifies her fiery and unfettered personality. Kaif is extremely confident in her role that doesn’t lend itself to too much softness. Her aged looks as an older woman don’t deplete her natural charm and beauty and she is shown to be as fiery in her youth as in her older age.

Sunil Grover shines in the film as Bharat’s closest friend who never leaves his side. The actor who is largely known for his comedy keeps the comic timing alive in the film and has one of the meatiest roles. Disha Patani and Nora Fatehi have one dance number each in the film. If you haven’t yet seen Nora Fatehi in spectacles, you will see it in Bharat. (Most Bollywood films show aging with poor eyesight and glasses. Ditto for the 70 – year old Salman and Katrina Kaif).

Sonali Kulkarni as Salman’s mother, Satish Kaushik as the captain of the ship and Tabu have small yet significant roles in the film. It is interesting to watch Asif Sheikh in the film in a funny yet serious role. Wish that an actor like Shashank Arora of ‘Titli’ fame, was given more screen time.

Interestingly, the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan is recalled at two instances in the film. First when there is a hint of the inspiration behind the song ‘My Name is Anthony Gonsalves,’ where the actor emerges from a huge Easter egg and when the pirates attacking the merchant navy ship turn out to be fans of Big B. It is a treat to see Salman and Sunil Grover dance to Amitabh Bachchan songs.

The film has some tear-jerking moments when a television show brings long lost relatives and family members from both the sides of the border of India and Pakistan. The music and dances tie up the film to make it a total entertainer. Like Salman Khan in an interview once told me that he makes films for people who will stand up on their seats – cheer, whistle and throw coins. Just like he did in his childhood. Bharat has all of these elements and yes, it also has the national anthem of India that is sung in an interesting context. A total desi entertainer!

I give the film 4/5 stars.

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