Film Review: 'Sultan'
Opened: 6 July 2016
Cast: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Randeep Hooda, Amit Sadh
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Producer: Aditya Chopra
With the success of Creed earlier this year and several subsequent Bollywood films revolving around the same theme, fighting movies are currently de trop. What then, can one expect from Salman Khan's Eid gift to us all in Sultan?
Many elements go into making a super duper box office blockbuster... Just ask Khan who's on an unbreakable winning spree with his unprecedented record at the turnstiles – something which he perfects again here, with a bit of triumphing over adversity (twice), a smidgen of romance (but no sex please, we're Desi), a strong soundtrack, not forgetting action, plenty of which Sultan has in abundance. Part Rocky, part Mortal Kombat with shades of Karate Kid for good measure Sultan seems to have ticked all the boxes, at least commercially.
Much has been written about Khan's splendid physique, which is truly a sight to behold. We're used to Bhai taking his top off for effect, but here he's gone a step further, by stripping down right to his pants! Nothing though, can detract from his ageing presence, which at times makes for uncomfortable viewing, when we wince as we watch the lumbering Lothario romance Anushka Sharma's Aarfa, the age gap a generation apart, obvious.
A yarn spun around an ageing wrestler and his ultimate triumph which comes at the cost of his happiness at the altar of ambition, all the while creating a monster whilst traversing the fine line between arrogance and self confidence, Sultan is the umpteenth re-telling of the sports underdog with many a life lesson which all come in thick and fast. "Don't bury your daughters, who will marry your sons? Men and women are equal... Give back to your community..." and so on and so forth, which all makes it rather preachy, but makes the film ultimately watchable nonetheless.
Sharma as Aarfa taps into her other Yash Raj leads namely Taani (from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi), Shruti (from Band Baaja Baarat) and Akira (from Jab Tak Hai Jaan) – basically that of a no nonsense, stubborn, fun loving, go getting lass. Her Aarfa too, recycles much of the same tried and tested characters, but in all honesty there's really nothing new to see here.
Khan also isn't pushing any envelopes. His dialogue delivery albeit in Haryanvi, could be Prem from Prem Ratan Dhan Payo or even Bajrangi Bhaijaan his two recent house fillers. His butter wouldn't melt persona, his holier than thou turn, it's all a bit meh and getting slightly (very) boring. His dad jokes elicit giggles, Khan being refreshingly self deprecating whilst we as an audience raise a wry eyebrow – is he laughing at us or laughing with us as we laugh at him? Well that's open to debate.
A couple of factors redeem the film from the depths of mediocrity though – the cracking soundtrack featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, the Nooran Sisters and Harshdeep Kaur or the 'Baby Ko Bas Pasand Hai' all guaranteed to be played to the point of no return at all Desi weddings this year. Secondly, the beautiful, eye popping cinematography which captures Haryana and Old Delhi in all their splendor, a far cry from the modern Metropolis that most films these days want to sell to us, is to die for. This is a land that still dries dung for fuel, that rides tractors and flies kites. Where residents visit holy shrines to tie threads beseeching the saints to intercede on their behalf.
For all intents and purposes though, this film is undoubtedly a sure shot success – for millions of Bhai 'bhakts' he can do no wrong, but for me? I just wish Sultan was more about the ageing wrestler and less about, well, Salman Khan.