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Friday, September 22, 2023

Bharat Movie Review: When Sentiments Lack Sensitivity

Bharat has been in the headlines for several reasons… From Priyanka Chopra’s exit to Salman Khan expressing misogynistic remarks against Katrina Kaif.

After much ruckus, the Ali Abbas Zafar film, which is an adaptation of Korean drama Ode To My Father, has finally released.

The movie is a journey of a man (played by Salman Khan) and a nation together.

At the cusp of India’s birth as an Independent nation, a family makes an arduous journey to freedom. However, this freedom comes at a cost.

An 8-year-old boy, Bharat makes a promise to his Father that he will keep his family together no matter what.

This is a promise that he keeps over the next 60 years of his life, overcoming challenges in every decade – some humorous, thrilling, romantic and even life-threatening.

His resilience, loyalty and a never dying spirit mirrors the fundamental qualities of the nation – Bharat.

Generally, the film promises to be an entertaining and endearing film about a man’s sacrifices to fulfil a promise made to his father.

The Indian Adaptation of a Korean Drama

The 2014 Korean drama Ode To My Father was quite a poignant watch film.

It brilliantly showcased key moments of Korean history as the backdrop of a human interest narrative.

Given that as a precedent, Bharat seems to cover various Indian historical aspects very well. The emotional and partition sequences are very effectively shot.

There has been an improvement in Ali Abbas Zafar’s direction.

To make a film showcasing multiple years with ageing characters is not an easy task. He tries his best.

The highlight of the film is the ‘Mere Apne’ show in which estranged family members from India and Pakistan unite. This is a key moment in the narrative and will make the audience cry.

However, at times, it’s the writing which brings the film down.

In one scene, Bharat complains about how everyone thinks he is a hero when he is just a common man.

Yet his antiques are larger-than-life and exude machismo.

We get to see him as a stunt-man, oil field worker and merchant navy. Oh, he can sing and dance too.

In a way, Bharat seems to be an all-knowing superhero. At one point Kumud (Katrina Kaif) even tells him to stop being so godlike. I wish the same.

The concept of Bharat, the man, not appreciating people around him should’ve been explored more.

It would’ve been better to see the main protagonist just live life as an ordinary person.

The issue is that the film proactively sets out to make his life outstanding and extraordinary, which becomes difficult to digest.

Cast performances

As expected, a Salman Khan dominates the screen with his larger-than-life macho charisma.

We see him play characters of various ages, which is different for him.

His performance during the emotional quotients are effective, but other than there’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

Katrina Kaif shines as Khan’s counter-part Kumud. She stays true to her character and does not fall prey to the misogyny which surrounds her in the film.

The show-stealer for me, though, is Sunil Grover. He is first-rate as Vilayati – Bharat’s best friend.

His comic timing, as we know is apt and even in the serious quotients, he lives up to his repertoire as an actor.

The child actor who plays the young Vilayati is brilliant as well.

Jackie Shroff is seen briefly in parts of the film and is effective as the father.

Disha Patani has a small role, but she leaves a mark as the acrobat Radha. Though her track could’ve been developed better.

Nora Fatehi as the dancer Susan is forgettable. Besides dancing to ‘Turpeya’, her role does not really help the narrative much.

However, other talented actors like Shashank Arora, Sonali Kulkarni, Kumud Mishra and Kashmira Irani do not get much scope to shine, but they do well in their respective roles.

Even though Tabu makes a guest appearance, her role is perhaps the most important one in the film.

What’s Bad?

The film gets carried away with unnecessary subplots and pointless comedy. Consequently, this futilely prolongs the duration.

In fact, the songs could’ve been used well as a way to transition into the next sequences.

Like the ‘Zinda’ track could’ve been used as a way to showcase Bharat and other men training to work on oil fields.

Whilst songs like Slow Motion are great, they don’t really with the film’s narrative. Even some comedy scenes are just cringe-worthy and at times, offensive.

Whether it’s Vilayati dressing up as a Hindu goddess or Satish Kaushik as the navy cluttering captain just shows the insensitivity towards disorders and religion.

Plus, subtle digs are made towards Amitabh Bachchan, which just makes the film immature when the overall storyline is quite sensitive and sensible.

On the whole, Bharat is an average fare though it easily could’ve been one of the best Bollywood films of 2019.

There are some poignant and effective moments, which are well done.

However, unnecessary humour and insensitive sequences undermine the film’s cinematic experience.

⭐⭐.5 (2.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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