Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directs a chiseled Farhan Akhtar in Bhag Milkha Bhag a biopic on one of India’s very few renowned athlete “The Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh. Based on a script and screenplay written by the ad-man turned writer Prasoon Joshi, Mehra tries to cover absolutely every aspect of Milkha Singh’s life ranging from his motivation to joining the armed forces to the reason why he joins the athletics to his childhood traumas.
Farhan Akhtar a normally fit actor has undergone an epic transformation in terms of embodying the physicality of a premiere athlete. Outside of the physical transformation there isn’t much to applaud Akhtar for as he is saddled with a directionless script and a sagging storyline that aimlessly wanders between flashbacks. Akhtar manages to turn on the charm in the few moments he is allowed by the scripts where he is allowed room to breathe. Sonam Kapoor who plays Akhtar’s love interest is competent in the minuscule role that barely has 3 spoken lines. Prakash Raj plays the Army captain in-charge of the unit where Milkha Singh joins and in continues the tradition of Bollywood movie using Raj for comedic purpose only. The two supporting cast members who shine are Pawan Malhotra who plays Singh’s coach and Divya Dutta who plays Singh’s sister. These two carry the heart of the movie on their shoulder and are responsible for some of the tenderest moments of the movie.
The biggest problem for me is the story, as a biopic in its earnestness it tries to cover all aspects of Milkha Singh’s life and seems like a series of made-for-tv episodes. It never pulled me in and made me concerned about the fate of Milkha Singh and that for a biopic is detrimental. The direction relies all too heavily on traditional story tropes of the underdog story and the predictability of it after a while begins to take its toll on you.
Mehra entrusts Binod Pradhan with cinematography and it is a success from a purely visual standpoint. The scenes of Milkha Singh training in Leh while of no significance to the story are shot beautifully framing the stark landscape in all its natural glory.
Music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy fails to deliver a single memorable track while still manages to be a successful background score especially with the folksy songs voiced by Daler Mehandi .
The lack of any editing and a directionless story telling cripples what could have been a fantastic portrait of a deserving national hero to one that is riddled with clichéd plot points.
Another gripe I have is with the Indian audiences, we are so easily swayed by the India-Pakistan rivalry that no matter what form of sports it be the moment India bests Pakistan all the sins are forgiven and the same is true here. In what is the seminal moment in Milkha Singh’s life is reduced to whistles and hoots as he crosses the finishing line. Or perhaps the problem lies with me and I don’t know how to enjoy a movie.
Watch this movie if you want to spend 3 hours counting every pulsating muscle and bulging vein in Farhan Akhtar’s body , but if you want to enjoy a well-made cleverly written biopic about an Indian athlete watch Paan Singh Tomar instead.
Clearly the movie is a critics darling at this point with most giving it a 5 star rating. I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie and what you liked about the movie!