Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a Partition story, at least according to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Prasoon Joshi

Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and screenwriter and dialogue writer Prasoon Joshi have presented Bhaag Milkha Bhaag as a Partition story, which is a legitimate mode of telling the Milkha Singh story. He is a refugee from Pakistan, and he has faced tribulations aplenty before he was able to make his mark as a world class athlete. There is also the likeable, lovable naive, part rustic Milkha Singh the person who adds colour to the story of the athlete.
The film totters because Mehra and Joshi are caught in the cross-hairs of the narrative as it were, showing the traumatic Partition memories of the hero, his playful character and his natural talent for running. They fail to tell the story of the athlete in any authentic sense because Milkha Singh was a natural athlete and not the gym-man that Farhan Akhtar the actor of the 2000s is. We never get a close-up of the athlete, either at the Melbourne Olympics, the Tokyo Asian Games nor at the Rome Olympics.
Mehra and Prasoon focus on the Milkha Singh run in Pakistan, which is sort of closely tied to his Partition memories, and it is only this part of the story that rings true to a certain extent despite the vapid sentimentality and rhetoric infused into this strand. Farhan Akhtar does not the fit the role of Milkha Singh because Akhtar is too restrained and sophisticated to play the role of a querulous Milkha. His studied performance scatters into bits and pieces because he cannot reflect the core element of the character. Akhtar is much too self-conscious about his abilities and persona. The one who gives a brilliant performance is Divya Dutta as Milkha's sister, Isri Kaur. She is compelling in her expressions and her emotive capability. The songs are uninspiring and so is the music. Joshi is simply not capable of writing good lyrics. Only people who have not heard good Hindi lyrics can appreciate Joshi. Mehra as a director continues to be erratic with a good shot and good scene here and there. He has not yet mastered the art of telling a story from the beginning to the end with the scenes following each other in a compelling sequence. Many would want to see Bhaag Milkha Bhaag because India is desperately looking for that silver lining of a heroic figure. Milkha Singh fits the bill of the hero rather effortlessly, but the film fails to measure up to the man.

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