Bharat is a series of episodes in the life of the titular character. As such some “episodes” are on point but many are there to fill up the required two and half hours screen time or to throw in an item number or two.
The film starts with Bharat (Salman Khan) in his seventies who looks fit as a fiddle, with an occasional cough indicating his advanced age. Otherwise he is upright and agile. He seems to have shared his potion of youth with his lady love Kumud Raina (Katrina Kaif) who never seems to age even as she transitions from the seventies through the nineties and the two thousands. Bharat is a child during the partition when his family consisting of his mother (Sonali Kulkarni), father Gautam (Jackie Shroff) and two sisters try to leave for India. The family gets separated when Gautam and one sister could not board the train. Before splitting, Gautam asks Bharat for a promise which shapes Bharat’s future right till the end.
Bharat’s character could be an amalgamation of many people who have lived in the years depicted in the film. Starting from long lines outside the unemployment center to working as labourer in the Persian Gulf or joining the merchant navy or finally transitioning to a successful small business owner are all phases that people in our nation went through. However to have one person flit through so many events seem implausible, more so because of the frivolous nature the changes have been handled. Too many issues have been crammed without delving into any one with any seriousness. Not only does Bharat go to the Gulf during the oil boom but he also gets proper food for the labourers just by a short speech. And the episode about the pirates takes the cake. The merchant vessel has been taken over by pirates after a fight but they are so full of joy to see Bharat dance to Amitabh Bachchan’s songs that they decide to return all the money they looted. Also, as per the film, you can lose sight of your life’s goal if you get married but nothing of the sort happens if you just cohabit. The writing is peppered with similar gems that won’t let you take the film seriously.
Other than Salman Khan, there are not many things going for the film. Salman seems to have shed weight and looks fresh. Other than Salman, only Katrina has good screen time but she does not make any impact. Jackie Shroff, Disha Patani, Tabu all have two to three scenes each leaving the film solely on Salman’s shoulders. Sunil Grover fails to tickle the funny bone. Production values are good but you’d forget the songs by the time you leave the theatre.
Writing, or the lack of it, is the major problem with this film. Supposedly based on a popular South Korean film Ode to My Father, I have my strong doubts how faithful the adaptation was. It is particularly a Bollywood trait that content takes a back seat when you get a big star like Salman. Given the budget of 100 crore and with Salman as the hero, the makers will probably still make a nice profit on the film. Maybe that’s what matters when the dust has settled.