Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - Review
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The audience goes "oooh", "aaah", and "woohoo" with every up and down that Milkha Singh goes through, in the first five minutes itself. And my heart goes along too. Yes, it is long. Yes, it has songs. Yes, it is dramatized, even over-dramatized at times. Except for the songs, all of it works for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Oh and yes, it is predictable too. But, then isn't that fact predictable in the first place? It is a true life story after all.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag makes a deliberate effort to balance between telling an inspirational story and not making it a boring History lesson. With the number of slow motion scenes and choreographed, lip-sync songs the makers might have gone a little overboard in trying to keep things interesting. Sure, if Bhaag Mllkha Bhaag were told as a "He came. He Ran. He conquered." story, it might have made for better cinema. But, would the risk of Milkha Singh's spirit reaching out to a smaller audience been worth it? So, this once, if having Milkha Singh dance while tapping his buttocks is what it takes, so be it.
I am sure writer, Prasoon Joshi must have thought long and hard over what was left out of Milkha Singh's story and what was added. It is a shame that typical Farhan Akhtar-style PJs (Poor Joke) found their way in. From having seen him as himself on TV shows, the jokes instantly reminded me it was Farhan Akhtar I am watching.
It took away from the otherwise gripping performance. Yeah, his accent doesn't flow naturally, it comes across as trained. His diction is slightly distracting - as it is when he speaks Hindi or English too. But, Farhan Akhtar smiles his charming smile to endear Milkha Singh to you. The upper teeth jutting forward give it, what I assume, a Milkha touch. You sense Milkha's pain and determination. You want him to go easy on himself when he heaves and pants. And you want him to win.
Divya Dutta and Pawan Malhotra add the much needed layers to Milkha Singh's personality than Milkha Singh himself. Their characters' aspirations and pride show through in the couple of emotional scenes between each one of them and Milkha Singh. Divya Dutta is easily one of the most under-rated actors in Hindi films. Jabtej Singh as young Milkha too gets you to feel his pain, despair and courage.
On the other hand, Sonam Kapoor does her usual do as Neeru. She's stiff and looks like she's making a style statement with her salwar suits and hair curls. She has such little impact that you feel you have seen a lead lady in the film for the first time when Rebecca Breeds comes on screen as Stella. Similarly, Prakash Raj as the comic relief didn't work for me either, as in he acted well, but the comedy seemed a little off for the film.
If there is one thing you can tell about Indian men from what was going on, on screen and in the audience is that it takes as little as either a few bikini-clad or non-Indian women to excite them. Anyway, as discomforting as that was, from Neeru to Stella to Perizad (Meesha Shafi) they all exist to show Milkha Singh's priority - his work. The little time spent on Milkha Singh's transition from one woman to another tell's you about the makers' focus too - Milkha Singh and his training.
I've always had a problem with the little time spent on the athlete's training in a sports film, or for that matter the minimal time that any underdog takes to come up to speed in a film. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is more than satisfying in that respect. Milkha Singh gets long and strenuous training sessions from the director, enough for you to beg for his mercy on Milkha Singh's behalf.
Another huge section of the film is the flashbacks into Milkha Singh's childhood and especially the partition of 1947. The sequences are a little too over-stylized for the era that they are set in. But, they are styled well. The editing, the transitions, the interspersing are all pretty slick and thus end up giving those bits a contemporary feel. Again, if that's what it takes to keep more people interested, so be it. The non-linear narration also keeps you absorbed.
As you stay engaged, you realise that this is not about one athlete or one victim of the partition. Taking nothing away from how special Milkha Singh's achievements were to the country, especially in those times, almost any athlete will have stories of his roots and hardwork worth narrating. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is as much a salute to them as it is to the man himself. It is as much a tribute to the millions of partition victims who suffered and sustained as it is about how unfair his life was.
You also wonder if the situation, especially of athletes, has really improved today. In fact, from the couple of cases I know, our non-star athletes have it worse now. The conditions they have to sustain in, the politics and corruption involved is mind-boggling. Subtly, the film also tells you how our soldiers, our protectors, have it worse than our athletes. It doesn't dwell too much on it, because the core of the film is Milkha Singh's spirit.
I want my kids to watch Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and I recommend you take yours too (Please read Parental Guidance section for details on Violent and Sexual content). Not only for the film's potential to inspire, but also to sensitize them to parts of our history that are terrifying. Even more terrifying is that it is being forgotten and taken for granted. Kids know the partition, at best, as a story - India got freedom; India was divided; millions of people were displaced. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag gives them a glimpse of what a kid their age went through. And of course, it's also important they see how he persevered through hardships that they cannot even imagine. It's our job then, to have them extrapolate it to the millions who suffered.
So, this time around I'll take the little ones to the theater, not for the beauty of seeing life on screen, but for the beauty of a life or many.
- meeta, a part of the audience
- Violence: Fist fights. A couple of gory violent scenes.
- Language: Abusive language silenced off. Not too much of it, anyway.
- Nudity & Sexual content: A making out scene. A couple of lip-to-lip kisses. A couple of scenes where sex without consent is implied.
- Concept: A dramatized version of an inspirational story of one of India's best athletes.
- General Look and Feel: Grainy and given the aged look for the 50s setting.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Facebook Twitter YouTube Wikipedia IMDB
- Banner: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mishra Pictures
- Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
- Lead Cast: Farhan Akhtar
- Supporting Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Dalip Tahil, Rebecca Breeds, Divya Dutta, Prakash Raj, Pawan Malhotra, Nawab Shah, Meesha Shafi, Dev Gill, Shanta Kumar, Art Malik, K K Raina, Jabtej Singh
- Story: Prasoon Joshi
- Cinematography: Binod Pradhan
- Editor: P S Bharati
- Action Choreography: Allan Ameen
- Choreography: Ganesh Acharya, Shiamak Davar, Vaibhavi Merchant
- Music Director: Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonsa
- Lyrics: Prasoon Joshi
- Costume Designer: Dolly Ahluwalia
- Facebook Page: Link
- Running time: 190 minutes
- Reviewer: meeta
- Language: Hindi
- Country: India
- Genres: Based on true life story, Biography, History, Patriotism, Sports
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - Trailer
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