Let me start with the standard disclaimer which I always prefer to mention while discussing movies. I am not a student of cinema. I am neither a person with great knowledge nor skills to understand each and every aspect of any cinema like some of my friends do. I am just a viewer and I go to a theatre to be entertained. Now obviously there are various forms of entertainment from different movies. Something like ‘Go Goa Gone’ can provide you laughter and corny on- liners for entertainment, where as ‘Shawshank Redemption’ or ‘The Dark Knight’ would provide entertainment through a well designed, thrilling story line.
In the same way ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’ entertained me with its storyline which is very much dominated with sports, athletics to be precise and the wonderful narration style which kept moving back and forward to show the glimpses of Milkha’s childhood, training phase and success phase pretty much at the same time effortlessly.
Now during my childhood, the two things closest to my heart were books and sports and hence when both of those got combined to give me books about sports I was doubly interested to read them and remember them. Like many Indians during 90s cricket was and still is my most favourite sports but I also read about sports like Football and Tennis and also about past Indian greats like Dhyan Chand, Ramanathan Krishnan and C. K. Nayudu.
I do not remember when I first heard of Milkha Singh. But it was pretty early. My guess is that it was some random quiz book or GK book in school which mentioned him as the ‘Flying Shikh’! Later I got more details about him and about his 4th position in 1960 Olympics from one of those Bengali encyclopaedia types books (“Chhotoder Bishwakosh”) when I was around ten. But even that version lacked much details and written very briefly for children and only mentioned that he was the favourite to win that race and could not. Then I read about him later. Saw news paper articles. Know that his son Jeev is one of the leading golfers in India. I liked Milkha in a sense that in most of the articles about him he comes up as a person with strong point of view and who generally speaks his mind. I was also vaguely aware of his roots and his struggle during the partition of 1947.
So, with this much knowledge about Milkha Singh and based on the general positive reviews about the movie, Shreyasi and me decided to watch the movie in Inox in City centre. We went in the 3rd Sunday after its release and the movie hall was full which told me the people have interest in this movie. But I was not sure whether that was for Milkha Singh, for Farhan Akhtar or for Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra, whose earlier directed movies were ‘Rang De basanti’ and ‘Delhi Six’.
First thing first, this movie is more than three hours in length and if you are not interested in sports or trivia beyond cricket or football then this is not the movie for you. Now was the movie perfect for his length? The answer is No. The length could be trimmed and it could be made into a slicker, sharper movie. But then again this is not a thriller from Roberto Rodriguez, this is a bio-pic of one of the greats of Indians sports who had a pretty long struggling phase in his life. With that in mind I guess I would give a grace and support the director. But like RDB and Delhi-6, there are portions in this movie which are brilliant and then there are sequences which were pretty forgettable.
I specifically liked the part with young Milkha. The narration including the partition conflict; the location (Puarana Quila) and the acting were top notch. Especially the kid Japtej Singh who acted as young Milkha was wonderfully matured with a most innocent smile on his face! The running in Milkha's life started in that phase and he kept running towards the success through his life.
Among others, I would like to mention Pawan Malhotra, Yograj Singh and Prakash Raj, the three trainers/coaches of Milkha and all three of them have given wonderful performances. It was Surreal to see Yograj acting as a very hard working stern coach who made Milkha practice with Stones tied with his legs, it reminded about the stories of how he did pretty much the same thing with his son Yuvraj to make him one of the finest limited over cricketers in the world.
Farhan as Milkha was very convincing. I guess this would be the best way to describe his performance. He is a good actor with a wonderful physique and looked every bit a sportsman in this movie. He also depicted the rural charm and sense of humour of Milkha along with the struggle and difficulty he had faced quite well throughout the movie and showed lots of heart in the emotional scenes. Also, there is a five minute sequence of Farhan Aka Milkha training topless in the rain which was good enough to bring any girl to her knees according to my girl!!
Sonam Kapoor had nothing much to do and I anyway do not like her much. It looked more like a guest appearance may be driven by her god relationship with the director. Divya Dutta was good as usual in her role of Milkha’s elder sister and given a strong performance.
Overall ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’ is a good, inspiring movie which has highlighted the life long race of a legendary sportsman of India, the race which started for his survival from a massacre turned to a race for Milk and egg and finally to a race in the country where his family was brutally murdered. As I have already said it is a movie which all the members of the family can enjoy given that they have some interest on sports.