Hindi Reviews

Bharat Review: Tedious Non History

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Director: Ali Abbas Zafar

Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Disha Patani, Sunil Grover

Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat is based on the Korean film Ode To My Father. Unfortunately Bharat also contains some original bits and stars Salman Khan as the Bharat through whose life we see the story of the country. Watching the other Salman Khan production that came out this year, Notebook, I had this same feeling. If only they had left the original film untouched and stayed faithful in the remake.

And so what could have been a nice moving film ends up being a tedious star vehicle with most of the emotion stripped down and sanded away. Bharat feels like some reheated-too-many times sandwich. The two pieces of toast are there, as is the filling. But the toast is now a hard shell and the filling is a bit thin and has lost its texture and flavour, all we can taste is the microwave heat.

*****

Bharat is written and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, with additional dialogues by Varun V Sharma. It is based on the Korean film Ode To My Father written by Park Su-jin and directed by Yoon Ji-kyoon. Bharat stars Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Disha Patani, Sunil Grover, Sonali Kulkarni, and others, with a cameo by Tabu and Jackie Shroff.

The film was produced by Reel Life Films, Salman Khan Films and T Series. It was shot by Marcin Laskawiec and edited by  Rameshwar S Bhagat. Bharat features music by Vishal-Sekar and background score by Julius Packiam.

*****

A group of property developers want to build a mall in central Delhi. The only hurdle: a man called Bharat – Salman Khan playing someone close to his age – and his provision store. No matter what, Bharat doesn’t want to sell the store.

Then we go into a flash-back narration of his life, told by Bharat to a bunch of younger members of his family, on the day of his birthday: August 15.

The partition of India and Pakistan prompts Gautam (Jackie Shroff) to leave his job as a station master at a small village near Lahore, and take his family to Delhi. Family is Bharat, his firstborn, Gudiya, the elder daughter, two other children, and mother. However, the stampede at the railway station and the marauding goons on either side of the divide causes Bharat to lose his hold on Gudiya and Gautam gets off the train to look for her. But before he does that, Gautam asks his son Bharat to take care of the family as the eldest child and as the man of the family. And asks him to go to Delhi where Gautam’s sister runs a store.

In Delhi, Bharat makes friends with Vilayati Khan. And even I, south Indian person with a rudimentary knowledge of our Rashtra Basha got the Bharat Vs Vilayati pun. Well played Ali Abbas Zafar.

And so Bharat and Vilayati grow up and have adventures – including being played by Salman Khan and Sunil Grover respectively, join a circus because the two of them, while still young boys, fall in love with a young girl Radha (who grows up to be Disha Patani in one and half scenes).

Apparently Radha is in love with Bharat but Bharat doesn’t want any thing to tie him down before he performs his sonly duty and protects the family his father entrusted to his care. But that still doesn’t stop him from dancing with Radha – cue for some kind of romantic entanglement – and in general being somewhat of a man taking his pleasures where he finds it.

At the end of the first of many completely unnecessary song sequences, Bharat’s brother – the imaginatively named Chotte (Sashank Arora) – has a crash on his brother’s bike and this throws Bharat off, so he quits the circus.

What follows is a series of jobs disguised as adventures or adventures disguised as jobs that Bharat and Vilayati undertake in order to earn money, travel the world, and keep up the store for the day Bharat’s father would return.

These include mining for oil and gas Somewhere In The Middle East (this is literally the super that appears on screen), being mechanics on board a merchant navy ship under attack by pirates, becoming middle aged men whose only source of income is a small provision store in an old part of Delhi, among others. Along the way, Bharat falls in love again, this time with his supervising officer Kumud “Madam Sir” Raina (Katrina Kaif). Except she is no Radha and tells him that he cannot get away with buying her one shawarma on his last day Somewhere In The Middle East. Of course Kumud Raina is a true blue Indian, as befits Bharat. (Of course the Raina surname – a Kashmiri Pundit name – is just entirely coincidental)

And Vilayati, true to his name, finds himself a wife – Sophia (Norah Fatehi) – on a trip to Malta.

Later, Madam Sir Kumud becomes a high flying TV executive, and she and team conceive a TV show in which people from either side of the India Pakistan border can talk to audiences from both countries about the people they lost in the partition. This entire thing is of course great TV but it also is a way for Bharat to try and find his lost sister and father.

Eventually, after a couple of false alarms, Bharat is reunited with sister Gudiya (Tabu in a lovely cameo) – now a British Muslim living in London.

And so we roll towards the end. Bharat has given up meeting his father, and sells the store.

*****

Bollywood is at a point where your average film with even middle rung stars has a significant budget. This means production values, craft are at a fairly high level. Given that we have Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif – huge stars – and a big budget, and given all the in-film promotion and marketing tie-ups (hilarious that Zee TV of the 90s is shown with today’s logo), the film looks beautiful from start to finish.

This then requires the content to be slightly more – shall we say – above average. Bharat isn’t that. It’s ultimately just your average story of a man who falls in love with a woman and eventually marries her. Bharat’s driving purpose: keeping his family together and the store running for the day his father would return, is alluded to in a few places but they remain that, allusions to purpose. Bharat seems more intent on being the desi Forrest Gump. To be there where ever action happens.

And given the film is called Bharat and is supposedly 70 years of India seen through a common man, there are many chest thumping rah rah India moments. Including when Bharat, Vilayati and other hopefuls begin singing the national anthem to a hiring official. Soon everybody in the room join in this overt public display of patriotism. I half expected the police to rush in to the theatre and arrest me for being the only person sitting through the entire scene.

India’s many gods are alluded to: Amitabh Bachchan, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and cricket, Krishna. All to milk any and all sentiments in order to make us feel the film is worthwhile.

However, the truly emotional, moving moments are treated with disdain. The absolute carnage of the partition and the way Hindus and Muslims on either side of the line clung on to the trains, and the TV show in which a father found his son and a brother and sister reunited. These scenes get commentary on top, but are turned into spectacles literally with an audience clapping the whole thing through. Intruding into what is essentially a private moment. I begged the camera to get closer. Cut off everything else. Just show us Tabu crying, god just that one actor, no one else (read Salman Khan) pretending to act. But no.

All these, and the hammy, scenery chewing performance of Salman Khan and his pencil moustache made Bharat extremely tedious.

*****

The Bharat review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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