Bharat is yet another Salman Khan film designed singularly to flatter the ‘Bhaijaan’ mythology


However, if the fast-selling tickets in the festive season is anything to go by, Bharat is set to be a box-office winner. But in the end, it’s a Salman Khan film and others are hired only to make Salman Khan look like Salman Khan. Here, Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s Emergency is quickly glossed over. In Kabir Khan’s Tubelight, Mahatma Gandhi was invoked. Bharat seems to be designed to right the wrongs of Tubelight, but it’s as colossal a misfire as the 2017 disaster was, probably one of the rare few commercial failures of a superstar at the peak of his popularity. In 2017’s dud Tubelight, he was the man-child mocked by the entire neighbourhood for his dim-wittedness but he was a special kid who had the “self-belief” to move mountains. (There is ACTUALLY a scene demonstrating that very act). Tiger in action

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In the opening scene, Bharat announces his arrival by roughing up the builder conspiring to construct a shining new mall in old Delhi where Bharat runs a grocery shop. With a name like Bharat, you know patriotism – a subject that has become a huge money-spinner at the box-office in the Modi era – isn’t far away. Though largely apolitical, Salman is turning out to be unexpectedly good at reading where the narrative is heading. Imagine a film where Katrina Kaif is the best reason to watch it! One scene has the “bade miyan” bashing up a group of attackers on a Delhi street. This includes Tabu, who is utterly wasted. On screen, Salman is a force of nature. As the Bachchan playlist is tuned on, the pirates forget that they are here to plunder and instead, dance the night away on 70s hits. Advertising

Salman Khan is no Saleem Sinai (protagonist of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, born on the midnight of India’s Independence in 1947) but he is no less than Saleem Sinai either. “Yeh sher boodha zaroor ho gaya hai par shikaar karna nahin bhoola,” roars the Ek Tha Tiger star, amidst much applause in the theater. In the theater, as that scene played out, many a patriot arose while others, ostensible lesser-patriots, didn’t know how to respond to a situation like this. Subtle hints at Salim-Javed are strewn all over: rising unemployment and Emergency (the two primary reasons why the Angry Young Man was, err, angry), Kala Patthar, Deewaar and lost-and-found (admittedly, more Manmohan Desai and Kadar Khan than Salim-Javed). Early on, Bharat promises that his life is way more eventful and colourful than the greys on his head and beard. “Keep the family together,” becomes Khan’s dictum whilst he loses his father (Jackie Shroff, who keeps appearing throughout the film in a station master regalia) and sister on the eve of Partition as they board a train to Delhi from native Mirpur. That physique worked beautifully in Sultan, where the down-and-out has-been emerges out of his slumber to win big. Sunil Grover, who plays Bharat’s childhood friend, is another actor who makes Bharat somewhat bearable. In the patriotism department, Salman is second perhaps only to Akshay Kumar. Salman’s historical sweep
Partition is the one great theme of Bharat. One scene even has Bharat initiating the national anthem, a gesture that basically gets him the oil rig job in the middle east that he craves for. On June 6, Salman himself tweeted that he felt “happiest and proudest” that people stood up on that scene as a “mark of respect.”
Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan, Tubelight, Ek Tha Tiger and Tiger Zinda Hai, almost all recent Salman hits, have pulled in the patriotism angle. If she blew your mind in Zero, she is going to win you over this time with her vastly-improved acting chops. Bharat is Salman and director Ali Abbas Zafar’s attempt at a historical sweep. In the novel, Saleem is endowed with supernatural powers. Bharat also stars Katrina Kaif. It plays like a three-hour-long “Being Human” advertisement, telling us how good Bharat is and how he is a metaphor for India itself. But the film seems to define ‘colourful’ as covering Bharat’s life like a nostalgia trip in which he traverses the great distances without nuance, reducing a great tragedy like Partition to overgrown schoolboy’s limited idea of history. If Tubelight was about a 50-plus superstar with a chest line to match trying so hard to turn on the childlike charm, Bharat is about Salman as a 70-year-old who struts around in a bulked-up body of a wrestler. These are the kind of massy lines that audiences have come to expect from the 53-year-old actor. The plot, logic or historical accuracy be damned. 0
Comment(s) So is Manmohan Singh’s famous liberalization of the Indian economy, 1983 World Cup win, the advent of Doordarshan and the arrival of cultural heroes like Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar in the 1990s. But Bharat has no need for it, except that you are forced by market diktats to include a mandatory scene where the old tiger has lost none of his bite. Off to a bumper start, according to trade reports, Bharat is yet another Salman Khan film that is designed purely to flatter the Salman Khan mythology. As Bharat’s lady love (Bharat and Kumud, the Katrina character, are, according to the film, “India’s first live-in couple”), she takes the role that Priyanka Chopra didn’t think much of and chews on it until she gets it right. There are also hat tips to Amitabh Bachchan, including one supposedly comic scene involving Somalian pirates who turn out to be Big B fans.