The last time YRF made a sports film, they got it right. Chak De! India was also about the underdog. But a girls’ hockey team? That was new. Shah Rukh, the superstar, as a coach and not a player? That was new too. Chak De broke the template and then succeeded. It is what is missing in Sultan.
Aditya Chopra had the right idea when he green lit Sultan. A modern-day Rocky set in Haryana and adapted heavily for India, the film has everything it needs to be labeled a crowd pleaser. But, as my friend wryly remarked, he chose the wrong Rocky to remake.
At an emotional level, everything is right with Sultan. The characters are strong stereotypes that we can understand easily. The conflicts are simple enough to relate to, and dramatic enough to resolve satisfactorily. The plot is uncomplicated and straightforward. There’s a rousing story to be told, of an over-the-hill wrestler who’s redemption lies in entering the ring the proverbial one last time. With absolutely no deviation from the expected, this tale is narrated and resolved. It’s like ordering from your favorite Asian take-away – you know exactly what to expect, and you feel satisfied and contented when it tastes the same, day in day out. There’s comfort in the known.
There is no doubt that the film works in what it sets out to do. Salman as a 30 year old is a bit of a stretch, but once we get past that point, he is in form. He mixes humor with sadness perfectly, stays in accent and character almost all through the film, and delivers a consistent and moving performance. He is well matched by Anushka Sharma. The film takes her character to make pointed comments on the role of women especially in the orthodox Haryanvi communities, which is nice to see. Her character is given respect and space, both not very common in a Salman Khan film. The writing is predictable, of course. But the story flows, and the 148 minute run-time, though long, does not drag because there’s enough material to cover.
It’s what will make Sultan a popular film. But it also stops it from being a great film. There is nothing original in Sultan. Not one visual that’s new, or an idea that’s not done before. What if he lost the last fight? What if his wife – played by Anushka Sharma – fought instead of him? The last time YRF made a sports film, they got it right. Chak De! India was also about the underdog. But a girls’ hockey team? That was new. Shah Rukh, the superstar, as a coach and not a player? That was new too. Chak De broke the template and then succeeded. It is what is missing in Sultan.
Someone cracked a joke that in the years to come, the new generation will know Eid only as a Salman Khan release. A few more films like Sultan, and that may well be the case.
Hindi, Drama, Sports, Color