Cast: Salman Khan, Kareen Kapoor, Harshaali Malhotra, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Om Puri , Sharat Saxena
Director: Kabir Khan
Rating: * * ½
‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ is much more of a marketing exercise than a cinematic one. Coming as it does after his not-so appealing quasi-makeover as a crusading do-gooder in the home-spun ‘Jai Ho,’ it’s quite clear that there is a rebranding think-tank out there who are effort-fully clearing a strong pitch for Salman Khan to attain a veneer of ‘saintly’ star power in order to paper over the much publicized indulgences and excesses of the past.
Whether it’s going to work or not is not an issue I am much bothered about.
What bothers me here is the plain unabashed attempt to draw the unsuspecting ‘Bhai’ bhakt into the theatres with the promise of their favorite hero in an avatar that doesn’t quite gel with those that contributed to his stardom in the first place. This one doesn’t quite earn him as much on-screen brownie points as it possibly would, his off-screen persona.
Salman Khan as Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi is docile, ever respectful and veers towards the wide-eyed ingénue expressiveness of a naïve 18 year old. Is he playing one? I wouldn’t hazard a guess. An actor hugging close to 50 trying to pass- off as a young man on the threshold of a fledgeling career – albeit a much delayed one- is a little tough to accept. Add that to the manner in which he is portrayed- a sort of dim-wit whose all consuming obsession with Lord Hanuman and monkeys obliterates any intelligence or smarts that he could have possessed.
So, Pawan, is basically a simpleton with a heart-of-gold who while dancing at a Bajrangi celebration, finds himself stared at by a young six year old girl (Harshaali Malhotra) who seems to have lost her way. That she has a speech impediment is discovered when Pawan invites her to partake in his food and thereafter finds her unwilling to let him out of her sight. Pawan has no alternative but to take her home- because the cop station refuses to accept responsibility for a pretty girl child. His girl-friend Rasika (Kareena Kapoor) is supportive but her father (Sharat Saxena) who runs a at-home wrestling akhada is not amused. Issues of religion and food habits are raised and palmed-off without much logic. Pawan’s RSS upbringing, lack of interest in studying and inability to earn a living are all passed off as virtues that would do a diamond in the rough, proud. Then comes the icing on the cake- after finding himself unable to make a breakthrough in finding out where she came from he stumbles upon the truth while watching a match between India and Pakistan. So now that has been established it’s time to send the kid back home. But the Pakistani high commission won’t entertain the idea without a passport and Pawan’s attempt to send the young kid unprotected, with an unscrupulous agent backfires. So now Pawan has to go it himself.
The scenes at the border are quite ridiculous. And so are the ones inside Pakistan where the army is following the duo who seems to have found support in the form of a local stringer Chaand Nawab(Nawazuddin Siddiqui) trying to make it big hopefully, with a breaking story. The manner in which they arrive at the exact location of the girl’s parents’ home is confounding too. It’s all so simplistically assayed that it leaves you with the feeling that the filmmaker has little or no respect for his audience’ intelligence.
The portrayal of the child as a free spirit with no understanding of protective strictures is also quite befuddling. The characters in this film and their respective behaviors basically appear to have been designed to connect with the next plot turn, defying both logic and common sense. Most of the pre-interval section is concerned with establishing the child’s attachment to Pawan and his unsuccessful attempts to free himself of that responsibility. The second half is much more eventful, and it’s also quite over the top. Nawazuddin breathes life into the otherwise passive narrative, and once he enters the frame the entertainment value gets augmented by several notches and the attachment also begins to gain life. Om Puri and Adnan Sami have interesting cameos while Kareena and Harshaali Malhotra(who plays the kid) max on their prettiness to up the charm quotient. Aseem Mishra’s cinematography captures the natural beauty of the valley in all it’s vibrancy. Salman Khan doesn’t have much to do other than lend his starry aura to a film that is much more interested in augmenting his personality than in providing the audience with something credible or believable. It’s quite easy to see through the motives of this film-making exercise..i.e if you want to. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me , if more than half of my fellow brethren went ga-ga over this either!