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Review – Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a good attempt but it misses that all-important ‘x’ factor that makes a good film a great one.

Biopics are not easy to make. One needs to be very careful about the facts while making sure the film is informative, does justice to the subject and is engaging and entertaining enough to hold the audience’s attention. It’s not an easy job. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a good attempt but it misses that all-important ‘x’ factor that makes a good film a great one.

It’s about a Sikh boy from a village in British India, who later joins the army, becomes an athlete and goes on to break national and world records.  A great story in itself. But director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has taken multiple tracks across Milkha Singh’s lifetime (each of these tracks have the potential to be turned into full-length feature films on their own) and tried to incorporate all of them into one film. The result – a film director’s three hour long passion project.

Produced in a very non-linear fashion (the technique becomes a disadvantage) the film narrates the story of Indian sprinter, Milkha Singh and his journey to becoming a remarkable world class athlete. Along the way, there are hurdles that account for all the drama, action and essentially, the soul of the film.

The multiple tracks in the film are not cohesive. As a member of the audience, one is not really able to empathize with what Milkha Singh is going through because there is no proper connect with what follows or what happened before.

It’s hard to determine what really troubles the character? Is it the fact that he wants to run and win? Or is it that it’s difficult for him to deal with the demons in his past? Why is he so determined on breaking the world record that he chooses to train like a machine in Ladakh? A film of this genre needs to clearly depict the motive / reason for the protagonist to be able to justify his / her struggle.

Mehra is an accomplished filmmaker no doubt. His work has only matured post his last venture, Delhi 6 (a box office failure but critically acclaimed). He has treated this film with a lot of love and conviction. You can see that this is a director who truly wants to tell the story of Milkha Singh. But it seems he assumes that his viewers would be more interested in knowing about Milkha Singh, the lost boy, the milk loving jawaan, a thief with a heart, a man terrified of his past – than Milkha Singh the athlete who won laurels for India.

Farhan Akhtar delivers a career defining performance. He has completely transformed himself into the character. If it wasn’t for his signature raspy voice, one could lose one’s self in his adaptation of the role. Farhan Akhtar is Milkha Singh.

Akhtar is still at a very early stage in his acting career and he takes this challenging role and he plays it with all his heart and soul. He’s definitely going to be a serious contender for the Best Actor awards for this film.

Sonam Kapoor makes no particular impact in her blink-and-miss role. In her brief appearance also she is unable to earnestly portray the character. It looks like she just delivered a few expressions (she’s hardly got any lines) on her way to her next magazine cover shoot.

Shankar Ehsaan Loy are in full form and the music which flows like a dream throughout. The anthemesque ‘Zinda’ lifts up the mood of the film on every occasion it plays.  Divya Dutta, Pawan Malhotra, Prakash Raj and Japtej Singh (as a very endearing young Milkha Singh) deliver exceptional performances and add wonderfully to the film’s substance.