Either the film tries too hard in some cases to move you or shows nothing at all in other cases hoping that little exposure is enough to bring out emotions in us.
Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, Bharat (Salman Khan) is the name of the main character and the movie itself. As the movie begins, we see Bharat in grey hair and grey beard. This is the year 2010. He is almost 70-year-old. His voice can be heard in the background saying that we, as an audience, must be thinking that the story of this old guy would be uninteresting. But he assures that what we are about to witness is the story of his “rangeen zindagi” (colourful life). It was great to hear that sort of assurance but I didn’t allow myself to set high hopes solely on the basis of this.
Bharat is based on a South Korean film Ode to my father. I haven’t seen this South Korean film. So, there’s no room for any kind of comparison between the two movies. The story of Bharat takes us back to the year 1947 when the imminent partition of India and Pakistan was on the cards. Bharat is a young kid and is living in Lahore (Pakistan). To escape the indiscriminate killings on the basis of one’s religion, Bharat’s father (played by Jackie Shroff) takes his family to join the throng of people boarding the train to leave for India. Amidst the crowd, Bharat’s father and one of his sisters fail to board the train. Bharat and his family start living in one of their relative’s home in Delhi (India) and look after their provision store. So, this store becomes dear to Bharat. From thereon, the film shows what Bharat does to look after his family, his constant remembrances of his father and his sister who left behind, the efforts taken to reunite with them and how he tries to keep the provision store from being taken down by the potential builders who are keen on bringing a shopping mall instead.
The film tries to score on nationalistic sentiments. A kid says that even though he is a Muslim, he migrated from Pakistan to India as he considers India as his home nation. Someone greets “As-Salaam-Alaikum” and gets “Ram Ram” in return (to show the secularism and unity in India). In one scene, Bharat randomly starts singing National Anthem of India and the whole audience inside the theatre naturally stood up as a mark of respect followed by the chants of ‘“Bharat Mata Ki Jai’” (Long Live Mother India!). In fact, Bharat character is shown as the embodiment of people of India.
Vilayati, which means foreigner, is the name of a character who is also a close friend of Bharat. Vilayati is Muslim. (Is that a deliberate attempt to show the current environment in India where Muslims are seen as foreigners by a number of Indians and are sometimes even threatened to go back to Pakistan?). This Vilayati character is funnier at his best. He plays the iconic snake game on his mobile phone with a constant murmuring of “khaja.. khaja” (eat! eat!). He is jokingly said to be and shown as a lookalike of Nehru. After a futile attempt of lifting a heavy bag, he throws his hands up and acts as if finally having lifted it when, in reality, Bharat is the one holding it. As a matter of fact, the hilarity produced by this Vilayati character was a lot better than the annoying and forced comedy of Pirates-of-Somalia-dancing-to-the-tunes-of-Bollywood scene.
Radha (Disha Patani) is irrelevant in the film (Except that she is a part of ‘Slow Motion’ track, composed by Vishal-Shekhar, which is one of the decent songs in this film). She is glamorous and shown to have some sort of bonding with Bharat. But it is so transient and never registers well. So, as Bharat moves on with his life and parts ways with Radha, it does not make you root for them to be together. Kumud (Katrina Kaif) is in a live-in relationship with Bharat and that too with the approval of Bharat’s mother. Katrina Kaif’s bad acting, failure to render comic lines, and romantic relationship with Bharat that never blossomed further aggravated the scenes involving her.
There’s even an advertisement for a television channel and done as if it is part of the story. Anyway, this becomes even more irksome when a prolonged phase of the reunion of Indians and Pakistanis is shown. It gets so tiring and trite as this phase never ignites the emotion inside you. This ultimately leads to the inevitable reunion of Bharat and his lost sister.
As is customary, Salman flaunts his well-built body as he pulls a number of injured men using a trolley. It doesn’t even matter whether this Bharat character is 70 years old or not as he fights with such power and strength against a number of men trying to assault him while riding their motorbikes.
You do understand Bharat’s sentiment of not parting ways with the provision store but the emphasis put on it is so less that you never really feel Bharat’s emotions. Also, the banal portrayal of the family reunion, which is too long, doesn’t help it either. Either the film tries too hard in some cases to move you or shows nothing at all in other cases hoping that little exposure is enough to bring out emotions in us. Unlike Bharat’s promise that he makes early on, the film turns out to be colourless and wearisome.