All You Need Is Love
Film: Bajrangi Bhaijaan
Cast: Salman Khan, Nawazuddin Siddique, Harshaali Malhotra, Kareena Kapoor
Directed by: Kabir Khan
Duration: 2 hrs 28 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2
To put it plainly, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is the best Salman Khan film by light years. Or conversely, it is an above average film in which Salman Khan happens to participate. Be that as it may, the film scores highly on the emotional quotient in good old Bollywood fashion. Full credit goes to director Kabir Khan who pulls off a rabbit from the hat. While Kabul Express and Ek Tha Tiger were action oriented films, this time he has opted to pull the heart strings. Fair to say, he succeeds in doing and that too in style and when you leave the theatre in admiration of what the filmmakers had to offer.
Call it prejudice, but the fact is very few walk into a Salman Khan film expecting something off the beaten path. And a film that has some layers to it and offers more than just entertainment is like asking for the moon. Hence, Bajrangi Bhaijan comes as a pleasant surprise.
Indo-Pak stories usually are about rhetoric like Gadar or the Heena, Veer Zaara kind of love stories. Kabir Khan looks at the larger canvas. There is no love struck man and woman on the either side of the border, although this is more about love, caring as is taught in moral science. Barring a couple of state actors there are no villains in it either and yes, this is an India Pakistan story.
Somewhere along the most picturesque side of the Pakistan border lives a little girl named Shahida (Harshaali Malhotra, incredibly expressive). She can’t speak hence her mother brings her to Nizamuddin dargah in Delhi but in a twist of fate she is left behind. Her parents lament “Hindustan mein koi to khuda ka ek nek bandah hoga jo hamari beti ka khayal rakhega” The nek bandah, is Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi (Salman Khan), the biggest bhakt of Lord Hanuman and someone who will never ever tell a lie. Such characters are likable, even if they exist in films because you know in real life they are hard to come by.
Pawan takes her under her wings not knowing anything about her background or parents. As is mandatory in Bollywood and most certainly in a Salman film, romance is also the order of the day and the glamour quotient is fulfilled by Rasika (Kareena Kapoor). In a progressive tilt, her father (Sharat Saxena) bluntly refuses a marriage proposal for her because she is not inclined to it. These subtle touches are what make the movie rise above the ordinary.
The story gets going when Bajrangi crosses the border in search of the little girl’s parents. Nawazuddin Siddique plays a news reporter who lends them a helping hand and he steals the show with his wisecracks and terrific sense of timing. The finale will bring a lump to your throat and if your lacrimal glands are stirred easily, then a tissue box will come in handy – even Manmohan Desai would have been proud of the climax. In fact the last ten minutes is perhaps the only time when Salman Khan actually plays a character and not himself.
It is the overall conscious effort of portraying optimism and heart warming characters that strike a chord. Good guys still finish first seems to be the message and it is narrated with conviction. After Rajkumar Hirani, this seems to be the first attempt to entertain and yet tell a story that talks about values, even though on a relatively smaller scale.
Of the cast, Kareena Kapoor has an insignificant role to play. The little Harshaali Malhotra charms you with her cute looks but more importantly, she can act. Salman’s character is such that he gets to play his usual self and to be fair to him, he is sincere and earnest in some of the key scenes. Nawazuddin is first rate, as he usually is.
So, believe it or faint, this Salman Khan film deserves a strong recommendation.
Published in The Navhind Times on 19th July 2015