Bajrangi Bhaijaan ***1/2

Salman, Secularism and actually a ‘Story’, Rejoice!

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It was high time someone actually realized the potential of Bhai’s stardom, and made a better use of it than just making him do embarrassing moves and mouth silly lines in an incoherent apology of a story. Not that it stopped his fans from turning those movies into blockbusters, but there was always a lack of sensibility associated with it, which Bajrangi Bhaijaan changes, and how! So, ladies and gentlemen, this definitely is the best Salman Khan movie you have seen in years, and for that matter, one of the better movies you will see in recent times.

In one of the most un-Salman movies of his career, the superstar isn’t seen bashing goons to dust at a drop of the hat, or flexing his muscles and his shirt doesn’t get ripped off. Instead he is a “zero” who is pretty much good for nothing except having a heart of gold and being a staunch devotee of Bajrang Bali, and that’s how Pawan kumar chaturvedi gets nicknamed Bajrangi in India, and Bajrangi Bhaijaan across the border. The story of Bajrangi helping a 6 year old mute Pakistani girl stranded in India to reach her home in Pakistan might not be very novel or the most intelligent one, but has definitely got its heart at the right place, and along the way it teaches the audience some important lessons about the true meaning of secularism, love and accepting the diversity, overcoming the deep rooted prejudices we might have. Kabir Khan, other than having a consistent box-office record (Kabul Express, NewYork, Ek Tha Tiger) has always been considered a sensitive filmmaker, an image which he somehow distanced himself from in his last work (and leading to a bigger commercial success). But with Bajrangi, he seems to have found a middle path, between a  Rajkumar Hirani entertainer and a typical Bhai film, and that’s no mean feat! In fact while the movie will keep typical Salman fans happy with the Selfie number and a forced romance track involving Kareena in a cameo, it has more than enough soul to even draw the non-fans (do they exist, btw?) to the cinemas.

Salman is good, in fact better than he usually is, since he actually acts here. Nawazuddin Siddique is crowd puller as always, with his chemistry with Salman again sparkling after Kick, and Kareena should really start looking at meatier roles if she wants to be taken seriously as an actor. But the best thing, as you would have guessed by now, is the 6 year old Harshali Malhotra, who as the mute Munni/ Shahida steals your heart with her expressions, and is a big reason why the movie works the way it does. The music is good, with the Adnan Sami qawwali giving you goose bumps. The screenplay is often silly, and too contrived to be believed. Especially in the second half towards the climax, it gets a bit too filmy, but then that the perhaps the least you expect when you go for a Salman Khan movie.

But at the end what elevates this movie is the spirit of Secularism, of not being a Hindu or a Muslim , but just ‘being human’! Go for it.

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