BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG
Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures’ Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a biopic on the life of India’s ace athlete, Milkha Singh, who came to be known as Flying Sikh because of the speed at which he used to run.
Little Milkha (master Jabtej Singh) had a traumatic childhood. After the death of his parents, he lived with his doting married sister, Ishri Kaur (Divya Dutta). As a child, Milkha used to hate his sister’s husband as he used to torture her physically and mentally. One day, things had come to such a head that Milkha was thrown out of his sister’s house.
The grown-up Milkha (Farhan Akhtar) joined the army and was soon selected to represent India as an athlete because he was a very fast runner. The film talks about the rigorous training he had to undergo to become the phenomenon he became. It also traces his journey to superstardom.
The story oscillates between the present times – when Milkha is already a star-athlete – and the past when he was still a child. It moves forward as it lays bare the trials and tribulations of Milkha Singh. One day, Milkha Singh is selected for representing India in a friendly race to be held in Pakistan, with the aim of cementing the strained relations between the neighbouring countries. However, Milkha Singh turns down the honourable offer and pleads inability to travel to Pakistan. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru is perplexed with Milkha Singh refusing to participate in the competition and he asks the sports secretary, Wadhwa (K.K. Raina), to meet Milkha Singh and convince him to go.
The sports secretary goes alongwith Milkha Singh’s coaches, Gurudev Singh (Pawan Malhotra) and Ranveer Singh (Yograj Singh). In the train journey from Delhi to Chandigarh, coach Gurudev Singh narrates the life story of Milkha Singh to the sports secretary and, in the process, reveals why Milkha Singh was unwilling to travel to Pakistan.
What is the reason for Milkha Singh unwilling to accept the honour of representing India in the friendly race between India and Pakistan? Is the sports secretary able to convince Milkha Singh to change his mind? Does Milkha Singh travel to Pakistan? Does he represent India in the race? If he does, what is the result?
Prasoon Joshi’s story is very well-researched and traces the entire life story of the sports superstar right till the time he came to be respectfully called Flying Sikh. The screenplay, penned by Prasoon Joshi, has all the ingredients – pain, drama, humour, emotions, joy, sorrow, defeat, victory and even a little bit of romance when Milkha Singh falls in love with a simple girl, Biro (Sonam Kapoor). While the pain and difficulties of Milka Singh have been underlined, the problem is that too much time is devoted in showing all of them. The drama could’ve done with a far more condensed version of the trials and tribulations because after a point of time, they begin to slightly bore the viewer, especially the masses and the audience frequenting single-screen cinemas. No doubt, the class audience and a huge section of the multiplex-frequenting audience will love every moment of the screenplay but the fact remains that the drama, although universally appealing, becomes a bit too long for the masses to enjoy and/or appreciate it completely.
There are many plus points and highlights in the film. The humour in the flashback childhood scenes and training scenes is extremely entertaining and very enjoyable. The emotional appeal of the drama is also good because it would draw tears from the viewers’ eyes or at least get a lump in their throats. In particular, the scene in which Milkha Singh gifts gold earrings to his sister, the scene in which he establishes a new world record in spite of his injury, the scene in which he is asked to escape when his family members are being killed – scenes like these are high on the emotional quotient. Also, the entire climax is mind-blowing and will be met with huge rounds of applause.
The first half has entertainment value, especially in the scenes of Milkha Singh’s childhood as well as training. However, it is also true that the first half has several dull moments and sequences because they are repetitive and lengthy. The post-interval portion moves at far more speed and is more engaging than the first half. Dialogues, written by Prasoon Joshi, are extraordinary and give an insight into the genius of the writer and his ease with words.
Farhan Akhtar looks the athletic character he plays. He shines as Milkha Singh and delivers an award-winning performance. The amount of effort which has gone into his performance is evident. Farhan has worked very hard on his physique and the Sikh look and to supreme advantage. Sonam Kapoor has a very brief role and is good in what she is required to do. Pawan Malhotra is first-rate as coach Gurudev Singh. Yograj Singh is also splendid as coach Ranveer Singh. Prakash Raj is very entertaining and endears himself instantly. His splendid acting even in the tension-filled climax evokes laughter. Divya Dutta makes the most of her character by doing an absolutely fantastic job. She makes it easy for the audience to feel the emotions they are supposed to feel, with her outstanding acting. K.K. Raina leaves a mark with a polished performance. Rebecca Breeds has her cute moments as Stella, Milkha Singh’s girlfriend in Australia. Art Malik, as Milkha’s father, is nice. Dalip Tahhil makes his presence felt as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Master Jabtej Singh is lovely as young Milkha. Meesha Shafi (as Perizad), Mahendra Mehwati (as Kirpal Singh), Nawab Shah (as coach Javed), Dev Gill (as Abdul Khaliq), Shantakumar (as Gen. Ayub Khan), Chandan Gill (as Sampreet Singh), master Chinmaya Sharma (as young Sampreet Singh) and the others lend good support.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s direction is extraordinary. His narrative style keeps the audience engrossed. No doubt, his scenes are lengthy but the entertainment value is never lost. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is very good but the absence of a couple of super-hit songs is felt. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics are very inspirational. Song picturisations (by Ganesh Acharya, Shiamak Davar and Vaibhavi Merchant) are eye-filling. Binod Pradhan’s cinematography is outstanding. Sets (Sumit Basu) are very nice. Action scenes have been beautifully choreographed by Allan Amin. P.S. Bharathi’s editing is masterly. Technical values are of a high standard.
On the whole, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will have an eventful run at the cinemas and will turn out to be a richly rewarding film for all concerned. Its undue length will adversely affect collections to an extent and will, therefore, tell on the box-office results but it will still prove to be a very paying proposal. Business in the big cities and good multiplexes will be excellent.