Bharat, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, is an adaptation of a successful Korean tear-jerker, Ode to My Father (2014). I have not seen the original film but a brief glance at its Wikipedia page after viewing Bharat makes me wonder if the adaptation was made from the film or from the Wikipedia page. The key episodes of both films remain the same, as do the array of characters. Almost…
One would have thought that the story of one man’s life as he struggles to keep his family together and provide for them, while waiting for his father he lost during Partition of the sub-continent (Hungnam Evacuation of 1950 in the case of the Korean film), the emotional core and trauma of the Partition and the trauma of losing loved ones during it, would have been enough to sustain the film. But to justify the presence of Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, we have fights in hoodies and motorcycles, item number songs, comic interludes including Bharat’s younger sister having a crush on on Pandit Nehru and a complete mockery of his funeral, a caricature groom with caricature parents, a ‘paradise’ in Malta where women apparently float around in Grecian clothes soliciting men, and fall in love within 30 seconds to then become respectable Indian wives and above all, the national anthem. However, to those of you who might think, that the insertion of the national anthem within the film is a sop to popular patriotism, to be fair the Koreans did it too, though I have already completely forgotten in which scene it is inserted into and why.
The family dramas of the 1950s and 1960s, the most melodramatic and commercial ones of them, were replete with evil munshis, rapacious landlords, conniving sisters-in-law, nagging mothers-in-law, delinquent sons, interfering neighbors. Each one of the characters helped the narrative in some way. But the modern-day requirements of a star vehicle being entirely about the star in each and every scene of the film, make sure that in Bharat, all secondary characters are cleaned up of any interesting value and delegated to the background. They only serve to fill up the frame.
In the meanwhile, Bharat (Salman Khan) and Madam Sir (Katrina Kaif) go through a love story which is so fake that it makes you cringe, with the effort they put in to create a chemistry between them which is just not there. Madam Sir tries hard to be a bold, independent woman but her fire is suitably contained by a smug, ‘good boy’ Bharat.
Madam Sir, an employment consultant in a government office, puts aside her cotton saris to go to the Middle East oil rig in jumpsuits and pant-shirts and carries around a file, channeling Shashi Kapoor as engineer and site supervisor in more enjoyable films like Kala Patthar (1979) or Kabhi Kabhie (1976). She also barges into Bharat’s sister’s marriage to proclaim her unnameable relationship with Bharat, so that she can be allowed by Bharat’s mother to dance provocatively at the wedding, thereby fulfilling her real reason for being in the film.
There is a Russian circus as an ode to Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker (1970), there is a Radha (Disha Patani) in memory of Raj Kapoor’s Sangam (1964), there is a circus compere who comes out of an egg in a twisted self-reference to Anthony Gonsalves in Manmohan Desai’s Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977), who supposedly inspired Amitabh Bachchan and gave him a big hit, there are many odes to Amitabh Bachchan including Somalian pirates with machine guns who drop their guns to dance to a melee of Amitabh Bachchan songs which play in a hostage ship on God-alone-knows-which sound system, there is a stuttering captain in there for laughs (Satish Kaushik) , there is a light-eyed sister lost during the partition who returns years later black-eyed (Tabu) but can be recognised because she still retains a beauty spot behind her ear, there is an ode to Manmohan Singh whose liberalisation policies apparently gave rise to Zee TV, and finally there is the Wagah border in an ode to Salman Kahn’s own Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015).
There is no sense in mentioning cinematography, editing, sound design or music, or the lack thereof, in the absence of any coherence within the film. Yes, there are some good special effects which make Salman Khan look quite natty and slim in his ‘younger’ days, dancing with Radha.
The film unfortunately, despite being a very expensive film, turns out to be a rather clunky narrative, superimposing many more odes to the original one in order to fulfil the supposed requirements of a blockbuster and thereby, foregoing the emotional core story it set out to tell in the first place.
Hindi, Drama, Action, Color