Rating: 4/5 Stars
If you are an Indian or a Pakistani who has gone through the pain of partition, if you have had any family member tell you horrific stories of leaving family, friends, roots, wealth, property, businesses, legacies behind, you will understand exactly what this film is about. You will know precisely what note Ali Abbas Zafar is going for in Bharat and where he wants to hit you with it. With Salman Khan doing what Salman Khan knows best, Ali Abbas Zafar capitalizing on it, Bharat is a film you can’t miss on the big screen.
Salman Khan begins the story as a 70-year-old man about to celebrate his birthday along with his friends and family. It appears in the beginning as if the story is in a hurry to get the Salman Khan element out of the way – the big Bhai reveal as he turns around and glances at the cinema with his regular swag – but it isn’t so: Bharat is all about Bhai. And Bhai is everything that is successful about Bollywood. It has comedy, masala, emotion, music, drama, dance and so much more – and Bharat takes all of these elements seriously as it takes you on a journey of the days gone by in the most Bollywood way possible.
Flanked with funny-man, Sunil Grover, who performs beautifully and seems to be cut-out for mainstream cinema, Salman Khan’s character Bharat is your typical hero. A delightful naivete, enough machoness to beat the bad guys and can shimmy and shake at bizarrely positioned songs in the film. But who cares. Bhai’s emotional backstory is what keeps this different chain of events tied together. From a circus to an oil rig to a merchant navy ship, Bharat’s eventful journey takes the audiences through the laughs and the rides, the own-jokes, the homages to Amitabh Bachchan, the plentiful doses of patriotism and the lessons of humanity that all of us desperately need at a time like this. At one point in the film, Bharat says, “All wars can be solved with song, dance and a dose of Hindi film songs” and at the end of it, you’re convinced.
Katrina Kaif stars as Kumud Raina or ‘Madam-Sir’ who is shining in her role. There are no attempts to glamorize the already glamorous Katrina and while it is almost impossible to accept her looking as fly as a 70-year-old woman as she does in Bharat, she is completely believable as the smart-talking, good-looking woman with only enough make up to make her look real. She dresses plainly but continues to look charming and endearing.
But it is Salman Khan who delivers a beautiful performance as the emotional oldie, the flashy but sweet youngster and the hardworking middle-aged man, all in the same film. There are enough implausible sequence of events that push the boundaries of logic and you almost are about to step out of the realm of logic, but Ali Abbas Zafar is truly masterful at knowing when to quit (a skill most directors should learn from him). He knows when is enough and he reins the drama in and makes it realistic enough for those who may write his work off as too filmy. Ali Abbas Zafar has found the perfect balance between drama and melodrama, something which Kabir Khan wasn’t able to perfect with Tubelight after Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
All in all, Bharat is a film that is full of great messages but isn’t preachy. It’s patriotic but not overbearing. It’s dramatic but not over the top. It’s hilarious at just the right points, it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to become a bore and it hits you in the gut if you’ve got a story you can connect with partition. Bharat is the quintessential Bhai film that combines big budget and big stories and makes an enjoyable feature length film. It’s no Avengers: Endgame but it is definitely one of the best Bollywood films to come out this year.