<Review by: Juthika Nagpal>
Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Starring Farhan Akhtar, Japtej Singh, Pavan Malhotra, Yograj Singh, Divya Dutta, Sonam Kapoor, Rebecca Breeds
Jarred from the trashy collection of Bollywood movies released this season, I delayed my consent to watch this one. After hearing “You musssst go for BMB!” from at least a dozen people within a span of a few days I finally relented, and sacrificed a Sunday afternoon to see for myself what the big deal was.
Formula film, yes, but a formula that the Indian audience has not seen until now. Most Hollywood movies about sportsmen are all identical anyway, but this is the first time I’ve watched a Hindi movie that replicates not just the genre, but also the production quality, editing, cinematography, direction, background scores, and acting as well. This is probably Farhan Akhtar’s best performance to date.
The movie tells the true story of Milkha Singh (Farhan Akhtar), the ‘Flying Sikh’- an athlete from the Indian Army who held the Indian National Record for the 400m for almost 40 years. He represented India in 3 consecutive Olympics and is the only Indian male athlete to date to win an individual athletics Gold at the Commonwealth Games. (Okay enough of the Wiki introductions – let’s get back to the movie.)
Milkha Singh’s story transpires in the backdrop of partition and post-partition India. His patriotism and identity as an Indian conflict with the ghosts of his past – the scarring memories of a 12-year-old boy (Japtej Singh) who witnessed the massacre of his entire family amidst many other horrors of the partition. We live through adult Milkha’s trials and tribulations, personal battles, realistic results of training and pushing boundaries. We see the process of burning down and rebuilding from ashes, and revel in the phoenix that arises.
Well, it’s not exactly Ben Hur, but you get the drift.
The second half of the movie seemed a little tedious, and this is an issue I have with even the Hollywood sportsmen movies. The 3rd quarter of the film always goes on and on about the practice sessions, the extensive training, the willpower, blah blah. Hindi films have the option of putting all this into one magical 10 minute song but instead they chose to get the audience as exhausted as Milkha. The saving grace is, of course, watching lean muscle, sweaty strained flexes and the sheer beauty of the gorgeous human form at its best.
My 12-year-old enjoyed the movie as well (much more than I did), and sat at the edge of his seat for the most part. Also, ten points for no damsels in distress to rescue, no unnecessary masala, and for staying true to its path. I heard some gossip about Milkha Singh selling rights to the story for Rs. 1 on the condition that the story remains true, and though I haven’t verified this to be fact, it’s not hard to believe that it may be true.
All in all, it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon watch. I never thought I’d say this, but “Yes, must go watch BMB!”