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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Jabtej Singh, Pavan Malhotra, Sonam Kapoor, Divya Dutta

Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy

Running time: 195 minutes

Rakeysh Mehra reclaims his place behind the camera for the much awaited “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”. The movie recounts the life of champion Olympic runner Milkha Singh and the events leading up to his final race at a friendly Indo-Pak athletic event while also throwing some light on the Indo-Pak split which was the cause of Milkha’s traumatic childhood . The first thing that stood out about this movie was of course the length. But strangely enough, the 3 and a half hour film did not really feel long until the last 30 minutes or so. The chapters were pacey and just as long as they needed to be. The movie followed a pretty standard storyline with Milkha’s tale being discussed by his coach on a train journey. This would have been pretty bland if not for Mehra’s beautiful visual narrative.

Rakeysh Mehra brought the story to life with the use of warm and atmospheric colour (and a very unexpected cameo). Milkha’s troubled childhood was bathed in a dull, melancholic haze while his days as a lovelorn teenage troublemaker were full of colour. Mehra brought back the ‘Rang de Basanti’ vibe with some attractive black-and-white transitions during the story of the death of his parents. This was coupled with some innovative shots including a sped up tracking shot of the 200m circuit. He summarized Milkha’s victories in a stylish sequence of parallel shots in slow motion; and boy does he LOVE slow-mo. The film was riddled with innumerable slow motion shots and few too many songs (for a ROM flick) which probably gave the film its extra hour. The jolly Punjabi vibe was welcome.

Desi me rollin'

Farhan Akhtar hit the sets after a year of training with a vein popping chiseled body and a commendable performance. Following some very average acting in his previous movies, Farhan showed us a different side to his abilities with some intense bathroom mirror moments and insane running on the track. But he was defeated by the brilliant performances of Jabtej Singh as young Milkha and Divya Dutta as his elder sister. Sonam Kapoor reprised her Delhi 6 role as the ‘chulbuli’ village girl and makes a quick exit (just the way I like it). Pawan Malhotra was charming but Yograj Singh was very disappointing as Milkha’s Olympic coach. Prakash Raj had minimal screen time and a character that did nothing but lighten the mood with an exaggerated Southey accent while speaking Hindi. 

The storyline was quite straightforward and had some very touching moments and well-timed comic relief. The Farhan-Sonam love story was short and bittersweet which really pleased me. However the key message of the film failed to come through. The film intended to focus on how Milkha’s success was a result of his determination, perseverance and hard work but the idea fell apart. In a nutshell, Milkha lost a race because he had an affair with an Australian girl (The gorgeous Rebbecca Breeds) and won all the subsequent races because he said no to the Indian swimming champion. Parts of the movie describe Milkha’s gruelling training and his resolve, but him pulling a tire around a desert till he collapsed from exhaustion was not very provocative. Additionally, the Indian coach telling the Pakistani coach to F*** off after Milkha’s victory was in very poor taste, even if it was muted. Despite these shortcomings, Milkha’s story invited a lot of applause and left us swelling with patriotism as we exited the theatre.

When the screen went blank, I was left with a pleasant warm feeling which faded away as I got into the car. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag gave people a cause to celebrate one of the country’s most respected athletes and is a good candidate for the Independence Day special on Zee TV but did not leave a lasting impression. 



Pakistani coach Javed: "Milkha, Yeh tumhare zindagi ki Aakhri daud ho sakta hai"
Milkha Singh: "Aur daudunga vaise hi" 

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