Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Brotherhood On The Border

According to the box office figures, "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" (BB) has been a very successful film, a blockbuster. Loved by audiences in India and Pakistan alike, this film has managed to walk the tightrope of winning viewers over on both sides of the border. Full of cliches, stereotypes and naivete, how does BB manage to do that? Easy. By pulling on the viewers' heartstrings at the correct places. Often, when addressing people's emotions, one runs the risk of being overly sentimental and weepy. BB's magic lies in the fact that it serves the potpourri in the right proportion. So, what you get is a delicious mix of emotion, humour, drama and patriotism; all rolled into a very palatable dish, ready to be savoured by one and all.

Another feather in BB's cap is that it does not claim to be arty or intellectual. It is a mainstream film with all the baggage that comes with a commercial motion picture. So, it does not shy away from a long and at times rambling first half, having a leading lady when none is required and the ubiquitous song and dance. But this masala goes hand in hand with the tale of the speech-impaired little girl Shahida/Munni from Pakistan who is separated from her parents, and her magnanimous saviour: the affable Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi (Salman Khan in a softer role, a clear departure from his image).

This Hanuman devotee is polite, truthful, honest and belongs to the category of people who listen to their heart, not mind. Our little visitor from across the border is fortunate to be in his company. She is in the safest of safe hands. In spite of not knowing how to go about it, and not having any resources; he takes it upon himself to reunite the child with her parents across the border.

From then on, it is a sequence of several situations that the mind may question, but the heart gives a thumping go-ahead to. We meet many lovable characters along the way: the blunt and practical Boo Ali who knows the border inside out (pun intended!), the affectionate Maulana (Om Puri in a special appearance) who is an important link in the whole operation, the bumbling TV news reporter Chand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui in another memorable role) who joins Bajrangi's cause, and many others representing the army and the police in Pakistan. 

I particularly enjoyed some lines that came out of the blue, said little, but meant a lot. For instance Chand Nawab says, "nafrat bechna aasaan hai par mohabbat..." when TV channels refuse to air his story on Bajrangi, the person playing Kareena's dad says, " doosron ki madad karne se pahle apna mask theek se pehno" when Bajrangi brings home the lost Shahida, and the Maulana says, "Kashmir...thodasa hamaare paas bhi hai" when Bajrangi thinks he has to go back to India in order to visit Kashmir.

The climax at the border, though a bit long-drawn, has been shot quite well. You kind of "know" that such a situation involving so many people on either side of the border is not possible in real life, but you "wish" it happened! At that point in the story, it does not matter which side of the border you are standing on. You become a part of the collective euphoria and exult in the happenings unfolding on the screen in front of you. Certainly a "winning" moment for the director and his team!

The Kashmir landscape has been captured beautifully. Equally stunning are the desert views. Purani Dilli is colourful, chaotic and charming. The shots of the Samjhauta Express that runs between Delhi and Lahore are magnificent. Cricket, the favourite game in both the neighbouring countries has been woven meaningfully in the story. And Harshaali Malhotra as little Shahida is a great find. She emotes with her lovely face and large eyes, without saying a word. Kareena Kapoor Khan has nothing much to do, other than dancing to a mediocre "chicken" song, looking pretty in exquisite stoles and huge earrings, and handing a mosquito repellent coil to Bajrangi saying "yahan machchhar bahut hain". Wonder if she was plugging any particular brand!

This is the first Kabir Khan film I saw, his earlier ones being "Kabul Express" (2006), "New York" (2009) and "Ek Tha Tiger" (2012). Will be looking forward to seeing more of his work.

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely written. Now we feel like watching the movie. We will do that whenever possible. We look forward to .read more from you.