Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in a still from 'Chashni' from the film 'Bharat'. (Youtube screen grab/ T-Series) Photograph:( Zee News Network )
An official adaptation of South Korean film 'Ode To My Father', Zafar narrates the story a principled, do-gooder Bharat, who along with his family has had to shift to Delhi and take refuge at his aunt's house during partition.
Somewhere after the interval, a scene in 'Bharat' has its leading man Salman Khan walking the streets of Malta with friend and confidante Vilayti (Sunil Grover) and wondering about his journey so far. A bit overwhelmed by the view, Bharat reminisces about the years have gone by and says, 'So much I have seen, sometimes I feel I am living a dream,' as his friend nods in agreement. The line perhaps sums up how director Ali Abbas Zafar, who also serves as the writer of the film, weaves an exhaustive story keeping in mind the nation's sentiments but not so much logic.
An official adaptation of South Korean film 'Ode To My Father', Zafar narrates the story a principled, do-gooder Bharat, who along with his family has had to shift to Delhi and take refuge at his aunt's house during partition. While boarding the train from Attari at the time of independence, his father had asked Bharat to take his mother and siblings to Delhi and wait at Hind Store, owned by his aunt as the patriarch of the family ran off to look for his lost daughter. His parting words to the young Bharat was that he would meet the family at the store in a few days.
Days turn into months and then to years- as Bharat and his family wait for their father and sister to return but no avail. Meanwhile, a newly independent India slowly comes to term with its freedom and the responsibilities that come with it. Bharat grows up doing odd jobs along with his best friend Valayti till they decide the join the Russian circus where Bharat is a motorcyclist performing daredevil stunts. Things are hunky dory until one day an accident forces Bharat to re-assess his career choice and eventually leave the circus to join a more stable job. Valayti and Bharat then join the oil field- part of the Indian envoy there where he meets officer Kumud (Katrina Kaif) a strong headed, no-nonsense girl and the two fall in love.
Zafar tries to narrate parallelly the highlights of each decade with references to unemployment in the 60s, to the discovery of oil in the Arab states, to India winning the world cup in 83, to even rise of SRK and liberalisation in the early 90s. Each decade had its challenges and triumphs much like Bharat's personal life.
Mounted on a grand scale, Zafar tries to incorporate the look and feel of each decade pretty well and while the adaptation Indianises a few of its plot points, the premise of the film remains the same as that of the original where Bharat bound by duties and the promise that he had made to his father, sacrifices own happiness to make his family live a good life. But while the emotional quotient of the story is high, the film also has obscure scenes which completely play to the gallery.
Of course, any Salman Khan movies will have its usual trappings as the star overrides the script, as in some scenes, Bharat breaks into monologues about desh, desh bhakti and nationalism arbitrarily. Like a scene where Bharat breaks into a long monologue about earning in dollars to improve the country's economy and then even sings the national anthem in front of an employment officer or the scene where he tries to compare Africa and India (continent and country) as both poor nations and then breaks into a dance to impress the pirates on board a ship he works in. Such scenes are of course written to bring in the needed lump in the throat, make one feel proud of the country etc- and they completely play to the gallery.
Yet, despite a whole of illogical plot points, (he is not shown to study yet manages to find high paying jobs that require some degree at least) 'Bharat' works for its emotional quotient and how it deals with partition. Zafar does not take sides, instead highlights the pain that millions endured due to the partition and how till date people yearn for their loved ones who they had to leave behind years back. The film redeems itself purely on that basis- on how it captures these sentiments.
Salman Khan, of course, remains the star and lines, scenes are written keeping in mind his persona. But it is Katrina Kaif and Sunil Grover who perform and ably support the narrative. Over the past year, Katrina Kaif has clearly come into her own and now holds her own in big budget films. She shined in 'Zero' and in 'Bharat'too she is a revelation- making Kumud a joy to watch. She is strong willed, ahead of her times and Kaif plays the character perfectly. Grover, who has created a niche in comedy on TV, gets a meaty role as the faithful best friend and doesn't disappoint.
The other actors, Jackie Shroff, Sonali Kulkarni, Tabu, Nora Fatehi, and Disha Patani have limited screen time.
So does 'Bharat' work? Yes, it has its usual trappings, you see a 70-year-old Salman taking on goons alone and coming out of it unscathed, you see him flexing his muscles ever so often, but the film's story evokes emotions and weaves an emotional tale of a man who eventually learns to let go. It may be exhaustive, but still worth a watch.