Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Pawan Malhotra, Divya Dutta, Sonam Kapoor, Prakash Raj and Dalip Tahil
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag employs Guru Gobind Singh’s famous words and a sad old Sardaar joke with equal conviction. So where you have the inspirational “Chirian to mein baaz tudaun, gidran to mein sher banaun, sawa lakh se ek ladaun, tabhe Gobind Singh naam kahaun” (I’ll make a sparrow fight a falcon, I’ll make lions out of hyenas, I’ll make one man fight a million warriors and only then will I be called the true guru, Gobind Singh) you also have this rather embarrassing exchange: Stella (Milkha Singh’s Australian love interest) asks “Are you guys relaxing?” to which Milkha (Farhan Akhtar) says, “No! Myself Milkha Singh, 400 meters”. That’s one piece of silly humour you won’t even find in Khushwant Singh’s joke books. This movie is both incredibly inspirational and tedious. It presents the ethos of Milkha Singh to great effect but in its whopping 3 hour 10 minutes run time it employs too many unnecessary dramatic, humour and entertainment elements to distract you from one of the most important sports stories in this nation’s history. Had those histrionics been avoided this would have been the film to watch.
But take nothing away from the impact of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. It’s a solid biopic drama one that doesn’t unnecessarily glorify its subject. Yes it shows Milkha Singh’s sporting achievements but it doesn’t portray him like a clichéd cinematic hero. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and writer Prasoon Joshi present the human and emotional value of Milkha Singh’s achievements. What the Flying Sikh achieved in his lifetime was more than just milestones. He conquered the sprinting track in 1958. He was the international athlete of his time. They were historic memories. They’re perhaps the most relevant pieces of sporting history and they deserve to be told with conviction to a generation that would do well to learn something from it. That is what Bhaag Milkha Bhaag does well.
The credit of reliving Milkha Singh’s journey must go to Farhan Akhtar. He’s not acting, he’s being Milkha Singh. Shots of him sprinting are authentic to perfection. His training, his hard work and his efforts to look like an athlete and to be the sprinter have paid off. This is method acting at its best. Farhan is the sole reason you believe in Milkha’s story. And that chiselled physique may look gimmicky but it only adds to the character.
But what BMB needed was actual and serious editing. There are too many loose scenes that do nothing more than act as comic fillers. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra makes a silly special appearance and that’s just one scene. The songs are great but they really didn’t need to be choreographed and placed in between the narrative. The music was good enough to be used as an effective background tool. But alas the director chooses otherwise.
Despite the makers’ best attempts to botch the dramatic impact of BMB, this film still packs a solid punch. It has great casting. Dalip Tahil actually looks like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Divya Dutta breaks your heart and warms it up with equal ease. Pawan Malhotra matches Farhan’s brilliance. Sonam Kapoor in a brief appearance tugs at your heart strings as well. Make no mistake, BMB is intense. It has great visuals thanks to Binod Pradhan’s cinematography and some very good special effects. It has super music. It’s brutally honest in telling a great sporting story. Watch this film to realise greatness doesn’t lie in winning but in picking up the gauntlet. Taking a challenge. Working hard. That is true inspiration.