Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Sultan – Re-fuelling a flagging brand


Salman Khan in Sultan

 Cast: Salman Khan, Amit Sadh, Anushka Sharma, Randeep Hooda, Kumud Mishra, Anant Sharma   

Director: Ali Abbas Zafar

A Salman Khan film at Eid is now an expected and a Salman Khan film striving to extend the same micro-managed value system his earlier films hinted at has also become passé – especially since the central figure that carries the weight on his shoulders does not have much of a personal growth story to peddle.

So in essence this film, is more of a fantasy makeover of a popular actor whose draw at the box office is far more legendary (but not always validating) than his acting skills or real personality. Of course, the PR agents working overtime continue to run ragged trying to integrate an impression of saintliness in a man who is very much human with as many (if not more) frailties than the next man.

While Salman Khan’s integration into a sporting hero (that’s what this film tries to imagine) is pretty much fragile, there’s more interesting happenstance in the production (read back-end) of this film. It seems to me that the producers of ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ (in which the Hanuman bhakt hinted at wrestling prowess), yes Yashraj, seem to be plying the idea of a much more solid and reverential athlete who comes from a stronger firmament and has a more rewarding career graph than the rescuer of the lost child, he assayed in the earlier film.

So here he is undoubtedly Muslim, has a penny earning business that installs cable connections in Boroli (Haryana) homes, has a devoted sidekick (Anant Sharma) whose main job is to make Sultan look good and ease the way for his promptly falling in love with a wrestler (Kumud Mishra)’s daughter Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) who is also a state champion and potential medalist at the Olympics. All that is fine. We may not find fault with a man touching 50 in real life, claiming to be 30 in reel life and wanting to romance a woman who, in her late twenties, looks more suited to play his daughter.

There are in fact far more serious issues to quibble about here. Aarfa is shown as career oriented and disinterested in falling in love until Sultan in a matter of months, transforms himself into a super wrestler who tames every opponent who dares to corner him on the mat. There are no specific wrestling skills on display here, just a wide range of camera angles and tricks to make Sultan look like a winner all the way. Suddenly Aarfa has an inexplicable turnaround and (in stereotypical retraction) even gives up her dream of an Olympic gold, once she gets pregnant. Sultan in turn, rises to unprecedented heights wins the Olympic gold as well as world championships but his arrogance and overconfidence costs him his family.

While it suited the makers to peddle the cause of female emancipation in the first half, it (the cause I mean) also just as suddenly, becomes unsuitable in the post interval portion – where Aarfa leaves her husband and continues to help train potential competition winners of the future. As far as the filmmakers are concerned she doesn’t have a career anymore. She merges into the woodwork while Sultan tries to regain his self-respect and lost glory.

And for that purpose to be served we are supposed to buy into the loss of child because of the unavailability of a rare blood type which the father could have easily given if he was not so far away pursuing his own ambition. The rift between the couple is conveniently contrived and quite unbelievable and Sultan’s resurrection which rests on his earning big money (in order to set up an ‘Aman’ blood bank) in a high stakes pro-wrestling contest, is also equally so.

The film begins on an entertaining note and the first fifteen, twenty minutes is vintage Salman Khan boisterousness. The music sounds fresh and invigorating, the supporting actors Amit Sadh, Anant Sharma, Kumud Mishra and Randeep Hooda are well suited and Anushka Sharma’s spunky, energy is quite a lure here. Salman though, has nothing much to do other than play himself – after all the entire production is custom made to glorify his brand. His designed to order onscreen personality remains likeable for about the first half hour or so but thereafter it starts to grate. Helmer Ali Abbas Zafar and the Yashraj team may have managed to stave off pre-release criticism from the reviewers, but they certainly won’t be able to stop the cavalcade of disappointment that this film will generate in the days to come.