Salman Khan’s Bharat is an Ode to Manoj Kumar

Salman Khan’s upcoming film Bharat is an ode to Manoj Kumar, writes Subhash K Jha
Salman Khan’s Bharat is an Ode to Manoj Kumar
Salman Khan in 'Bharat'

Salman Khan

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Bharat was a name that the great actor-filmmaker Manoj Kumar assumed in film after film in the 1970s and 80s. His image of the immaculate patriot was often ridiculed by those who thought he was faking it.

No more. Salman makes patriotism a serious business in Bharat. So the colourful, rapid fire trailer of the eagerly awaited film suggests. There is much here to be loved. An earnest childlike Salman telling his ‘Madame Sir’(Katrina Kaif trying hard to look and sound like a bureaucrat from the 1940s) why he dropped his surname.

Would ‘Bharat’ sound correct with a ‘Kumar’ or a ‘Khan’? No?

Katrina looks bored with Salman’s nationalism. We don’t share her ennui. As Salman takes us through a dizzying spin across generations of Independent India, director Ali Abbas Zafar unveils a wealth of energetic enticing images that suggest splashy colours and ‘Manoj Kumar’ emotions packaged in that unerring brand of ‘Salmanism’ that  his fans expect.

Bharat looks like a one-man show all the way. With fleeting glimpses of various other characters who seem to be interesting props. But the one who makes an impressive trailer-impact is Disha Patani. As a circus gymnast she looks every bit as edifying as the Russian trapeze artist ‎Kseniya Ryabinkina in Mera Naam Joker.

With its large doses of nationalism and its eyes glues to creating an aura of  supple (and certainly not subtle) desh-bhakti, the trailer of Bharat suggests a new quasi-political avatar for Salman Khan, an endearing blend of Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar with lots of oomph, glamour and action to prop up the patriotic pitch.

Interestingly the trailer has a shot of Pandit Nehru’s death and an affectionate mention of his indelible impact on Indian history. At a time when the Nehrus and Gandhis are being blamed for everything that ever went wrong in Indian politics, it is refreshing to reclaim a kind of non-judgmental  political innocence that made  movies like Raj Kapoor’s Awaara, Shree 420, Jagte Raho, Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, and Manoj Kumar’s Purab Aur Paschim, such shimmering mirrors of India’s socio-political turmoil.

The trailer of Bharat suggests a chaotic society constantly in search of relevance. But then there is always the singing dancing romancing, bantering and dialogue-baazi. There is always Salman Khan.