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Bharat review: A film gone badly astray

Last updated on: June 05, 2019 17:17 IST

Bharat is nothing more than a reflection of the times we are living in: where we expect our heroes to be flawless, virtuous fellas -- it is our current national disease, says Sreehari Nair.

In Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat, one of the characters (played by Jackie Shroff) picks a key moment in India’s history -- the Partition massacre, no less -- to channel his inner Dev Anand.

But try singling out Shroff’s this one indiscretion, in a movie which features instance upon instance of poorly timed acting choices, cheap laughs and godawful characterisations.

You already know something’s gone badly astray in a film which has, as its protagonist, Salman Khan playing a man with unimpeachable standards of innocence, chivalry, valour and all-round goodness.

The odd sense of proportion which permeates Bharat extends to nearly everything in it: for instance, the picture opens with Khan, Katrina Kaif and Shashank Arora, all looking like models from a Flipkart commercial of 'kids trying to act like grown-ups'.

We watch in horror as they enact the rituals of old age by borrowing the most used numbers: Khan coughs between sentences; Kaif sighs between metaphors; Arora, while seeming pensive, tries to balance a thick moustache, obviously fake.

Things then move into flashback territory where we get more details about Khan’s character: he is Bharat, a Partition survivor who converses with foreign nationals in broken English but can, almost on demand, sing for us, the most anglicised version of the National Anthem.

 

Ali Abbas Zafar puffs up his hero.

Lines expressing Bharat’s deviltry climax in visual effects, equally hollow.

Salman's voice-over is used to explain random milestones from India’s post-Independence history.

In his presence, men surrender their rational, thinking selves and women readily turn into bunnies.

Such is the cosmic force in the man that when Bharat stands in an open field, even the sun seems to peek over his shoulder with some trepidation.

I was squirming restlessly in my seat at the phoniness of this central character and it is then that it hit me: Why squirm; for here’s a movie that has merely sensed the extraordinary prurience and conservatism that has come into Indian life of late.

Bharat is nothing more than a reflection of the times we are living in: where we expect our heroes to be flawless, virtuous fellas -- it is our current national disease.

There is a softness in people’s thinking today: characterised by the belief that, to be a hero, you don’t have to be smart -- merely being 'good' would do.

While you may scorn at its general shoddiness, it is to this popular thinking that Ali Abbas Zafar’s film panders.

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SREEHARI NAIR
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