Its 1964, and Bharat is Lord of the ring. A dwarfone who looks shockingly reminiscent of the most adored Lannister on the planethas just announced that The Great Russian Circus is on in full swing, and so a digitally de-aged Salman Khan finds himself in a rather futuristic motordrome named Maut ka Kua, just so we realize the staggering odds this indestructible star is up against. Clad in a banyanpresumably a Dixcy Scott one, given the stars penchant for fully elastic, fully fantastic innerwearhe revs up his bike (the registration plate of which reads BHARAT) and, quite literally, takes a leap of faith through a flaming hoop. Its all in a days work, as always, and so, having paused to take a sip or two from a coconut, Khan proceeds to the next big item on his checklist: romancing a scantily dressed seductress, one whose job description primarily consists of lip-syncing to lines like these: Aaja doob jaaun teri aankhon ke ocean mein: slow motion mein.
Not that we would expect anything less: in Salman Khans latest exercise in cinematic atrocity, a 53-year-old actor plays a 70 year-old man, and a woman nine years junior to him plays his mother. The film opens in the year 2010 in a crowded Delhi street, and people are playing Snake on Nokia handsets even as Khanlooking more like a walrus than a senior citizen with hideously fake grey whiskers plastered onto his faceis being propositioned on the merits on a new development project by three suitably slimy men. This endeavour, naturally, involves a harmless wad of notes, but Bharat is not one to entertain the tiniest sliver of fraudulence. Having nearly hanged the delinquent and thrashed him around with a broom, he then gives us this priceless reminder of what all good Tigers do: Yeh sher buddha zaroor ho gaya hai lekin shikaar karna nahin bhoola.
Like in Kalank, a train is employed as the device of separation here, and Bharats birthday is used as a framing device through which he recounts the many (immemorable) chapters in his life. All these narrative threads are bound together by a dictum handed out to him by his father (played by a surly-looking Jackie Shroff): Sab ka khyaal rakhna. Once Khan has made a commitment, of course, theres no looking back (a fact thats as indisputable as the sphericity of the Earth itself, and one that we were first acquainted with a decade ago).
Katrina Kaif, meanwhile, dresses up as a male drummer when shes not juggling jalebis or serenading her lover in the desert. Umar ke saath saath tum bhi bachche hote ja rahe ho, she chides her partner-in-crime at one point, to which the latter replies, Ab tum apni report batao. The writing is so ridiculous that its hard not to guffaw, though the films single biggest moment of honesty appears when Kaif reminds Khan of how theres more to Being Human than meets the eye. Tum bada hi self-obsessed aadmi ho, she declares. True that.
Ali Abbas Zafars film has repeatedly been marketed as the journey of a man and a nation together, much like Yoon Je-kyoons original that featured such key points in East Asian history as the Hungnam evacuation of 1950 and the Vietnam War itself. Here, the director methodically ticks off one post-Independence checkbox after another: from the horrors of Partition in 1947 to the wave of unemployment that swept the country in the 60s; from the madcap madness of Manmohan Desais Amar Akbar Anthony to Mohinder Amarnath trapping Michael Holding plumb in front during the epoch-making final of the 1983 Cricket World Cup; from a young SRK making legions of teenaged girls swoon in the wake of his dimples to a certain Budget speech made in 1991 that transformed a nations economy for good.
The problem, however, is that all this is used as mere narrative fodderone that serves the larger purpose of deifying a leading man with disconcertingly limited histrionic abilities, one who continues to sleepwalk his way through one middling film after another. India changes a lot in 63 years. Bharats expressions dont.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.