Bhaag Milkha Bhaag Review – A Sluggish Biopic On India’s Fastest Man Ever
Six years ago, the Shahrukh Khan starrer Chak De India left Bollywood fans spellbound by its breezy pace, captivating story, stunning performances and memorable music. Since then there always been a yearning for a similar film based on a sports related theme. Sadly, India doesn’t have a good history of sporting achievements in any other sport apart from Cricket, making such movies difficult to conceptualize. There are however tales of heroism and individual brilliance of sporting achievements in India’s past. Its present is also changing as highlighted by the reasonable showing of the Indian contingent during London 2012 where it won a total of six medals
Speaking of Olympic legends in India, one name that is etched in Indian history and is taught to every kid in school is that of Milkha Singh, better known as the ‘The Flying Sikh‘. And now, thanks to the efforts of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (best known for Rang De Basanti) and Farhan Akhtar these kids will be able to watch a whole movie based on the life of India’s fastest man till date. The only problem is that they will have a hard time getting the moral of the story and may just fall asleep through its gargantuan length of 193 minutes.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the title of the Milkha Singh biopic directed by Rakeysh Mehra and starring Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh is a period drama set in the era between 1947 to 1962. It appears though that the director forgot that most of the audience watching the movie would be born after 1975 and that their sensibilities would have greatly evolved in the past decade. No longer, does the Indian movie audience identify with the traditional three hour long format of a Bollywood film complete with ample showboating, stand-and-deliver acting and goofy bits of business. What they are looking for is something crisp, well defined and to the point. If the maker’s of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, particularly the director and the script writer (Prasoon Joshi) had kept the movie short, more gripping and focused on the facts, it would have been a real treat to watch. Lacing the narrative with cliche song and dance sequences, boy meets girl scenarios, ends up making it a little bit of a drag.
The film also moves between a narrative format, flashback sequences and flashback in the narrative, to leave the viewer in a confused state as to what time period is being referenced. This manifests itself so much so that towards the end when one is watching the movie in the present time, it still feels like a flashback. In many ways the treatment of a period film like ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag‘ should have been handled more carefully.
So much for the storyline and the structure, now coming to the really laudable aspect of the movie; Performances. Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh will get a National Award for this movie. We are predicting it today, mark our words. Farhan who is truly multi-talented, has delivered an absolutely spellbinding performance in a movie that is essentially all about him. In Bollywood, one normally associates the likes of Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan with method acting, but now Farhan Akhtar will certainly be counted as being one of the finest method actors in the world. Its a well known fact that Farhan worked for six months to get his body in mint condition for the movie. In the process he also grew his beard, his hair and learnt real techniques used by professional athletes to really look like a mirror image of the real 26 year old Milkha Singh.
T 1165 – Still reeling under the spell of 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' …
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) July 10, 2013
Another laud-worthy and surprise performance is that of Yograj Singh, who plays the role of Milkha Singh’s coach. Yograj Singh is the father of Indian Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, and while he is known more for being Yuvraj’s father, he comes out as a method actor who really understands the world of sports. While Bollywood and its crop of mostly senseless movies is becoming increasing commercial and money-minded, it comes as a really heartening fact that the rights for this movie were given by Milkha Singh to the producers for just one rupee. Sonam Kapoor, the lead actress charged only Rs. 11 for the movie and the really endearing aspect of the film is that part of the revenue made from the film’s box office collections will be contributed to the development of athletes and given to charity.
All in all, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a very watchable film, for Farhan, for Yograj and for the life of Milkha Singh himself, who will now be more researched by the current generation. Hopefully the film will inspire a new generation of athletes, and enable India to perform better in track and field events in the future. Also, there isn’t a better way to contribute to charity than watching a film sincerely made by a team of highly-talented individuals.
So go watch ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag‘ at a theater near you and learn a little more about India’s history and facts that you were probably aware of better didn’t know the reason behind them. For example, it was during the race in the Indo – Pak meet at Lahore in 1962 that Milkha Singh earned the`title’ of the “Flying Sikh“. The whole stadium was packed to see the key contest between two of Asia’s finest runners. Milkha Singh outran Asia’s most celebrated athlete, Abdul Khaliq of Pakistan, in the 200 metres race. Thereafter he was given the title of ‘Flying Sikh‘ by Pakistan General Ayub Khan, because he literally flew through that race.