Let’s admit it. We love reading negative reviews, ripping apart a movie frame by frame, criticizing the cinematography (thanks to those smartphones and SLR cameras, we all are filmmakers today), editing (which means how crisp the film was and how well it spares you of rona-dhonaas), music (must essentially have a love song, an item number, a title track, and a Sufi song), acting (the bigger the star, the lesser the respect) and direction (any of the above-mentioned aspects are included in direction).
Here’s how the film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has been ripped apart by the so-called critics who love indulging in intellectual self-pleasure, believing that that contemporary classics are all about vintage cars, Bengali sarees and a deaf-mute chaplinistic character, the plagiarism and wafer-thin plot notwithstanding. So here’s what the film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has been accused of:
“A yawnathon of a movie on marathon”
There are some films that are meant to be sipped, not gulped, experienced not watched, indulged in, not restrained from. Brevity isn’t an option for a film like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, for it’s a story replete with ups and downs and demands your time and undivided attention to savour the multiple layers of the character’s life and the women in his life.
Farhan Akhtar breathes life into the character of Milkha Singh, thanks to his dedication and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s direction. The actor and director surely deserve every accolade remotely connected to acting and direction. The other actor who leaves you awestruck is Pawan Malhotra. It’s really sad that such actors seldom get accolades they deserve. Right from ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’ to ‘Black Friday’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Delhi 6’ and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, Pawan Malhotra has proved time and again that he is one of the finest actors we can ever have. Binod Pradhan captures the sepia-toned Pakistan with equal ease as he does the race tracks. The refugee camp at an old fort in Delhi reminds of the 1986 film, ‘Genesis’ directed by Mrinal Sen, starring Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, and Shabana Azmi.
“Too filmy and melodramatic”
There’s a scene in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, where Anupam Kher says, “Zara kuch bol do, to aaj kal ke generations ko lecture lagne lagta hai” In the same sense, whenever a director decides to delve into the emotional outbursts, especially character artists, the critics are quick to quip with a ‘too melodramatic’ retort. If the director chooses to do away with such scenes, he is lauded for his ability to practice restraint and spare the audience from melodrama.
Come to think of it, how would an elder sister react if she finds her lost brother after a gruesome massacre during partition? What’s wrong in shedding tears of joy when the same brother gifts her with golden earrings hidden in a blazer he has earned from the Indian government? How else would a man react after tracing his roots and being reminded of a mass massacre on the same soil he is kneeling on? Why wouldn’t a guy shed tears on finding that his childhood friend survived the killing and resides in the same village now in Pakistan?
There is a scene where Divya Dutta (in her career-best performance) is slapped by her husband and forced to have sex. This entire scene is shown, yet not shown in the film and still succeeds in creating a lump-in-throat moment. I don’t want to make this a spoiler by describing the scene, for this is a ‘sharing of experience’ and not a review or screenplay (both mean the same in the so-called reviews these days).
A Pakistani athlete being defeated by an Indian is bound to look ‘Gadar-like’. What did you expect the director to show? The Pakistani athlete had a heart of gold and gave up the gold as a deliberate gesture of ‘Hindi-Paki bhai bhai’? Unlike what we’ve seen in Gadar and Border, there is no Pakistan-bashing in the film. The only thing highlighted about the Pakistani athlete and his coach is their cockiness and over confidence, which perhaps could have been done away with. It’s quite amusing that the word, ‘Pakistan’ has been edited out in the scene, ‘Sir mein Pakistan nahin jaaunga’. One fails to understand why a scene repeatedly shown in trailer is asked to be omitted by our Censors, especially when the entire film’s narration is based upon that single line.
“Biopics are dramatized and somewhat exaggerated”
First and foremost, if biopics chose to stick what had exactly happened, they’d have ended up being a documentary film and certainly not a commercial film (all films are commercial for god’s sake, nobody makes films to lose their money, be it 10 lakhs or 100 crores. So please stop glorying low-budget films and pooh-poohing the 100-crore club – both genres have their audience). Do you believe that the background score, ‘Gurubhai Gurubhai aavya chhe’ was actually played each time Gurukant Desai, a character based on Dhirubhai Ambani emerged triumphant?
Furthermore, how can one tell that while narrating his/her story, the person is telling the truth or just making it up so that his life seems more colourful? Who knows Milkha Singh really slept with a woman in Australia? Did Milkha Singh actually write messages (SMSes of that era) to his beloved (played by Sonam Kapoor who makes her presence felt in such small role) in a rubber ball and threw it at her place? Not every fact is documented and verified before including in a screenplay, hence the disclaimer line, ‘Based on a true story’.
Such scenes can only be created when a writer like Prasoon Joshi is onboard as a screenplay writer and lyricist. Without dramatization and exaggeration, a biopic will look as dull as a tackily executed PowerPoint presentation on a company’s founder with a heavy baritone voiceover (you need to be a copywriter to understand how bad it is). The obvious criticism to follow is about focusing on Farhan Akhtar’s muscles than his sprinting abilities. Oh really? Will you buy the idea of a skinny guy making an international record?
“Slow motion is used and abused”
An injured athlete attempts to run and ends up winning the race with his undone bandage. This one line scene wouldn’t have been able to elicit responses as eloquent as a loud ‘gosh!’ or a silent curled lipped sigh in the auditorium, had it been shot using a crisply cut wide-angled shot or a pan-shot (come on, we all know what it is and am not being too ‘technical’ for you). Some scenes need to hold on to a certain moment so as to amplify it and the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag does it quite often, which can be the only grouse against it. As for the loud background score, let’s not forget that the first victory of Milkha Singh before the interval is a silent one. Like Farhan’s character would like to put it, ‘Slow motion mein le chal, tu kyu time gavaaye!”
To sum it up, if you wish to read the actual review of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, just scroll down and read the readers’ comments on the news websites. A film of such caliber shouldn’t garner a meager 2.5-3 star-rating, while indulgent and mediocre films bags 4-star ratings. Not done, sir.