A sincere allegorical journey, ruined by needless masala.
They say that a country’s spirit is embodied by its people. But can one person embody the spirit of the nation? Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat tries to answer that question. Zafar’s third collaboration with Salman Khan, Bharat uses the life of one person to show the journey of a nation. Ambitious in conception, the film mostly completes its mission, using Salman’s character Bharat as an allegory for India’s own journey. However, the typically pretentious “masala” movie tropes often found in Salman’s films frequently interrupt an otherwise sincere and modest story.
Furthermore, Zafar’s storytelling is inconsistent at best. The first half consists of many somber moments of humility that suddenly get overshadowed by over the top bombastic happenstance. Where in one moment you connect with Bharat’s traumatic childhood experiences during Partition, in another you laugh at the ridiculous notion of deadly sea pirates that become friends over the love of Amitabh Bachchan’s movies. However, the second half is full of heart and multiple emotional tear-jerking moments. It focuses on Bharat’s later years and soon forgets that it is a Salman Khan film.
Salman Khan wrings out every ounce of emotion to portray the eponymous Bharat, a 70 year old man who has lived a life of epic proportions. Khan once again plays to his strengths, which include at times being the strongest and most agile 70 year old one has ever seen. However, unlike before there is a visible weariness on Khan’s face. Whether that is the result of good acting or actual fatigue, we will never know. Katrina Kaif dons a slightly different avatar here straying away from her usual roles to portray the tough modern no-nonsense character of “Madam-Sir”. A commendable performance which is at times marred by some unrealistic make-up choices where younger version Katrina looks the same as 70 year old Katrina. But alas this is Bollywood.
One for the saving graces of the film is Sunil Grover, who plays Bharat’s best friend and confidante Vilayati. The criminally under appreciated Grover gets to show his acting chops in one his meatiest roles till date. Known famously for his comedic acting on The Kapil Sharma Show, Grover proves he can give a nuanced dramatic performance of a character with multiple layers. His witty antics and charm keep the movie from being a complete bore.
Disha Patani appears in a wasted role used only as eye candy for one dance number and then forgotten. Bollywood film veterans Jackie Shroff and Tabu round off the cast with their solemn performances as Bharat’s long lost father and sister, respectively. They remind us that even small roles can have huge impacts in a film.
Catered for the masses, Vishal-Shekhar’s music is filled with foot-tapping heartfelt numbers that will be in people’s minds for a while. However, like other recent period films in Bollywood the songs of Bharat are anachronistic to the periods in which they are set. Unfortunately Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are also nothing to applaud especially when it comes to “Slow Motion”. A mishmash of hindi and english it’s a song that ends up saying nothing.
I give it 2.5 out of 4 Bhaijaans!
Overall Bharat is an emotionally inconsistent story that is good, but in parts. Salman fans will eat it up, while fans of masala movies will be entertained. Go watch it for the character arcs, and ignore the rest.