Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag inspires without getting too complex

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor, Rebecca Breeds, Prakash Raj, Pavan Malhotra, Divya Dutta, Dalip Tahil

Direction: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Rating: 4 Star Rating: Recommended 4 Star Rating: Recommended4 Star Rating: Recommended

The bulging sinewy biceps and six-pack abs were never quite a part of the real deal but if you discount that bit of cinematic licence Farhan Akhtar's reimagination of Milkha Singh is impressive enough.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, as the promos promised, essentially explores the man behind the phenomenon, considered one of the greatest Indian sportsmen ever. If Milkha is a living legend, his life brims with drama more audacious than any run-of-the-mill film script. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra creates fascinating fiction out of facts, although he could have kept it shorter. At 187 minutes, the film includes too many subplots to remain cohesive all through.

Three-film-old Mehra's career so far has swung to and fro extremes. His first, Aks, defined confusion as did his last, Delhi-6. In between the two there was Rang De Basanti, a film that inspired a whole nation.

The law of averages seems to work in Mehra's favour this time. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, aimed at inspiring through its story of an icon, shouldn't have much trouble impressing Bollywood buffs.

The film draws its title from the last words Milkha as a boy heard from his father, in the wake of Partition riots. The communal violence of the era forms the fulcrum in laying out Milkha's formative phase. It hints at what went into creating the resilience of the man we would come to know as the Flying Sikh in the years to come.

Milkha's story divides itself roughly into two halves. There is the restless, angered youth, coming to terms with Partition that cost him his family, and taking to crime as a refugee for sustenance. Then there is the spirited youth who gets into the Army, where his talent as a sprinter is first spotted.

Prasoon Joshi's script moves in time cycles between past and present to set up the story of these two Milkhas. The salad days in the barracks provide an engaging watch. Joshi is vivid in imagination of Milkha's time in the Army. The element of camaraderie inherent in this early phase of his life leaves scope for random humour and emotions alike.

The film could have done away with the imposed mush quota. Sonam Kapoor's 20-minute appearance as Milkha's 'romantic heroine' cuts down pace, as do his subsequent dalliances with an Australian girl (Rebecca Breeds, she gets an almost equal footage too). For a biopic mounted on a lavish 30-crore scale, those though are expected frills.

Farhan has always scored as a natural, though mostly exuding urban cool in films such as Rock On!!, Luck By Chance and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Playing Milkha lets him break the mould. He underplays every emotion to impress. Among the prop cast, Pavan Malhotra (as Milkha's first coach) and Divya Dutta (as his elder sister) steal the show despite small roles.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag tries to inspire without getting too complex about it and succeeds. Just for that, it is worth a watch.

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