The promos of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had the entire country in a tizzy, proven by the fact that the film managed to garner close to 30 crores on the opening weekend itself. How we love our movies glorifying the dregs-to-riches cliché! Everyone gushed about the brilliance of the biopic. And almost every other person claimed on social websites to be #mesmerised and #inspired to achieve the level of fitness that 39-year-old Farhan Akhtar managed to achieve for the movie.
Fair enough. What then troubled me while walking out of the theatre 3.17 hours later? The length of the movie of course! In this day and age when even one day matches are facing heat from the T-20s, would a test match be able to vehemently hold its own? (Yes, hardcore cricket fans, I see you’ll raising your eyebrows there!) Admit it, most of us find them boring. Yes, we did watch the close to 4-hours long Lagaan and enjoyed every bit of it. But then, there was more to the movie that just one man running.
But let’s not take away from this competently made movie.
The story is about young Milkha Singh, a Partition refugee who is separated from his parents during the ensuing riots. What follows is his struggle, journey and eventual success in emerging as a sporting hero in the newly independent India. The story of the growth of a care-free lad whose only worry is reaching school on time, to an athlete who refuses to compete in games of national importance due to the harrowing demons of his dreams – is narrated by Gurdev Singh (splendid performance by the underrated Pavan Malhotra), Milkha’s grooming coach in the army.
The movie movies back and forth, often employing flashbacks within flashbacks. However, in this case, the editing is done well enough to not leave the viewer confused.
You are left wishing for a bit more on the achievements by one of the greatest sportspersons that India has seen. His excellence in the various races has been delegated to 10 second clippings at the most. That the gore and nightmare of his childhood propelled Milkha Singh to great heights is treated with an unrealistic style (reminiscent of Imran Khan’s mind demons in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na).
There is one scene where Milkha, having suffered humiliation in the qualifying games of the Melbourne Olympics, walks up to his coach (Yograj Singh) and asks him to write the world record for the 400m race. The coach’s deliberate writing of the number on an Air India tissue, the putting up of the paper on the mantle as a constant reminder and the relentless practice sessions unfortunately culminate into a scene where Milkha merely stands next to an indicator indicating his new world record. No heroic run there. So much for building up expectations!
Prasoon Joshi seems to have stuffed the movie with irrelevant sequences that do not contribute to the larger story of the athlete.
Here’s a look at what could snipped to make Bhaag Milkha Bhaag tighter:
(a) Sonam Kapoor’s carefully coiffed messy hair in an absolutely unnecessary love track
(b) A little less zooming in to and out from Farhan’s well crafted hot body
(c)The Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar-ish (and every other sports movie ish) bad-guy-beat-me-up-I-make-bad-guy-bite-virtual-dust segment
(d) Entire songs dedicated solely to watch the training sessions
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has managed to extract the best from all the main characters, be it Divya Dutta (as the protective older sister with easily dispensable tears), Prakash Raj (in a different non obtrusive role, finally) or Pavan Malhotra.
And then there is Farhan Akhtar. The single force who sets the screen on fire and does not allow your eyes to waver anywhere else except him. From the tip of the hair to the little toe hitting the ground with gyrating force, every sinew in Farhan’s body earnestly speaks just one language – that of running. Once again he proves that his acting caliber falls nowhere short of his directorial skills. New found respect for Farhan for totally nailing it! Binod Pradhan’s camera work flirtatiously offers ample opportunities to gape open-mouthedly at Farhan’s finely chiseled body (that makes you secretly wonder whether it is Photoshopped!)
Clearly, a lot of research and hard work has gone into the making of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. However, it just falls short of a triumphant run across the finish line.