Those who think Salman Khan still acts and has not become a parody of himself, are as delusional as centrists about the new government. It is also the same people who will call Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat a coherent film. Packed to the hilt with nationalism, patriotism, and typical Bhai one-liners that gets the crowd on its feet, Bharat is everything you would expect it to be and more, but with as much point as a blunt pencil.
Based on the Korean film, Ode to My Father (2014), the story, if you can call it one, talks of Bharat (Salman Khan) who is separated from his father and little sister during the Partition as a child. Along with his mother and two other siblings, he settles in India, takes on the responsibility of looking after his family, all the while waiting for news about his father. To earn money, he tries (along with his best friend played by Sunil Grover) his hand at an array of things — circus, oil rigs in the Middle East, and Merchant Navy — all with zero experience.
During these various stints, Bharat meets Kumud Raina (Katrina Kaif) and falls in love, single-handedly saves a whole team of miners following an accident at a mining site, saves an entire ship from African pirates using Amitabh Bachchan songs, fights racism with a speech, and manages to keep the theme of Partition running throughout his narrative. Bharat manages to live so many lives through the years that at some point during the film, you actually start to wonder how much fiction is too much?
The film literally tracks every decade from 1947 to 2010, and actually makes you feel like those many years of your life have passed. The writers, Ali Abbas Zafar and Varun V Sharma, seem to not know what to do with the script from the start because the whole screenplay reads like hotchpotch mess of a bunch of random plotlines put together without any thought or actual point to any of them. Characterisation, too, falls flat for the most part – except for, surprisingly enough, the character of Kumud. Unlike most Bhai films, the female protagonist actually has a brain that works, is ambitious, and totally unapologetic about her life’s decisions and what she wants. In fact, the film goes to the extent of the couple forgoing marriage, and simply living together, well into their 70s.
Salman Khan delivers his usual macho man performance, with bad acting and so much special effects used on his body, it’s a wonder he’s not just a full-fledged cartoon yet. Katrina Kaif has a good role for a change, but still fumbles with delivering lines with any kind of conviction. Comedian Sunil Grover actually makes for the most natural performer in the film and provides comedic relief. The music is highly underwhelming and the lyrics make as much as sense as the plot.
Overall, the film is as good as Salman Khan’s last three films put together. But it is a tear-jerker for sure – especially when you see the many young men and women, whistling and cheering at their idol chase women, be needlessly nationalistic, and send across no valuable message for them to take home.