Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra‘s biopic of Milkha Singh is one of the rarest sports movies to come out of the Indian film industry in such a cinematic form. BHAAG MILKA BHAAG is neither a simple sports-to-glory tale like Chariots Of Fire and nor just a film about a sportsperson who brought big sporting glory & medals to our nation. On the contrary, it is the story of an individual's journey from nullity to pinnacles of success in a world where politics and violence are constant reminders of how little an individual's aspirations matter in the larger often murkier scheme. Rakesyh Mehra looks at this life of stunning serendipity with tremendous warmth, hope and longing. It is the kind of cinema that doesn't tempt us to share the protagonist's life with many false hopes. Who said life could ever be easy for those who aspire to fly higher than the rest ? The beautiful irony of Milkha Singh's life that this consummate biopic captures so ably, is that he really didn't aspire to anything, he ran simply because he had to. It’s a solid biopic drama one that doesn’t unnecessarily glorify its subject. Yes it shows Milkha Singh’s sporting achievements but it doesn’t portray him like a cliched cinematic hero. But apart from Rakyesh n Prasoon we must not forget one name who has made this movie a not to be missed biopic, i.e. FARHAN AKHTAR. Farhan doesn’t ‘play’ Milkha. The actor occupies Milkha’s mind body and soul and he has delivered a superlative outstanding performance n deserves an ovation.
STORY & SCREENPLAY : History is created in several ways. One of them is cinema. And if Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Bhaag Milkha Bhaag seems like a near-flawless homage to the flying spirit of India's greatest runner, it is partly because the story, so nimbly woven into a pastiche of drama, emotion, humour and pathos by story & screenplay writer Prasoon Joshi, who shows no hurry to keep pace with the onscreen Milkha's breathless sprint.The story of super-sprinter Milkha Singh unfolds in this exceptional biopic at its own volition. The synergy in the storytelling seems subliminal. Still, we the audience, fed week after week on mediocrity masquerading as cinema, are riveted to the story of Milkha Singh for over three hours of playing time. Well, to begin with it is Milkha Singh’s own powerful life as India’s superstar sportsperson that sweeps us into the bio-pic. Milkha was so poor he couldn’t afford running shoes, and when he got them he didn’t know how to run in them. When milk was offered in the army in exchange of running practice he grabbed it (the run and the milk) with both hands.A victim of India’s brutal partition, Milkha’s story was waiting to be told. As we see it, Milkha never stopped running since the trauma of partition.The ‘run’ as a metaphor of life’s expedient circumstances, runs through the narrative.Partition plays a crucial part in defining The Flying Sikh's life, and the film alludes a significant second factor that shapes him: his trysts with women. The first half seeks to list Milkha's motivating factors to run: His first exercise where he discovers he can run; a flashback within a flashback to his childhood with his proud father; his quick, fun, simple courtship with his first love Biro (Sonam Kapoor) that first inspires him to glory. Finally an evil rival within the Services, India's champion 400m specialist, who galvanizes Milkha into running along side for national selections after assaulting and humiliating him..During a training session, he is spotted by coach played by Pawan Malhotra who discovers the athlete in him and takes him to national level. On becoming a national champion, an able trainer essayed by Yograj Singh ( Father of cricketer Yuvraj Singh ) takes him under his wings and hence begins the journey of Milkha to be known as legendary The Flying Sikh.
STARCAST : FARHAN AKHTAR, can not get a better award when compared to the statement of Legendary Milkha Singh himself who said that he could not hold back his tears while watching the first rushes of the movie as he could not believe he was watching Farhan on screen and not himself. Farhan Akhtar dances the Bhangra as well as any Punjabi. Actually, he doesn't dance but he just flows with the rhythm. In fact I've never seen any actor dance or even run with such rhapsodic abundance. Method acting ? Farhan as Milkha takes us beyond that level. His body language and emotion-expression as Milkha is so pitch-perfect (pun intended ) we forget this is not the real Milkha in front of our eyes. This is as real as it can get. Sonam Kapoor, who although has a short but powerful role has once again managed to impress and that too as a village belle. She is on a up-spree as this is flick has come just weeks after Raanjhanaa and in both of these flicks she has managed to floor both audience as well as critics. Divya Dutta as Milkha's sister has given an astounding performance and her expressions are as real as they can get while portraying pain as well as joy on her face. I remember her being launched as as an sultry heroine in a movie called Suraksha (1995) ,but with her hardwork & dedication she has developed into one of the finest actresses. Similarly, Pavan Malhotra as Milkha’s coach as a Sardar G is as usual, first-rate. Really, this actor should be doing a lot more work cause he one fine actor who manages to impress you whenever he appears in any character he portrays on-screen.Yograj Singh, who got an excellent role as Milkha's training coach, has given it his best and has managed to impress by portraying a stern and serious coach. Amongst other noticeable ensemble actors who deserve an applause are Prakash Raj, K K Raina & Dalip Tahil. So,definitely, Aadore Mukherjee Mehra & Dilip Shankar who are the casting directors of this film, deserve a big applause.
TECHNICAL FINESSE : Music for this biopic has been composed by the talented trio of Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy who deserve kudos for the excellent music compositions they have composed as it is never an easy job to compose music for a biopic They have done full justice while delivering the background music also which is absolutely in tandem with the inspiring theme of the movie. The cinematography by Binod Pradhan is Immensely gratifying as his camera glides across Milkha's inner and outer world searching for a meeting point between the two worlds through visuals that suggest a comfortable kinship between feelings and their geopolitical counter-point. We often see Milkha on screen in situations where his emotional world is manifested in the interaction with the people around him. The brilliant unsparing editor P Bharathi follows no predictable pattern which is something daring but has worked well and paid off. The film has been very stylishly cut but not at the cost of loosing that Saadgi, the innate asceticism of the sportsman-hero.One more person who deserves accolades is the costume designer of the movie who is none other than Dolly Tewari ( Mother of Vicky Donor) who is coincidentally living in my neighborhood in Chandigarh) as she has given all characters apt costumes as per that era.Director RAKEYSH OMPRAKASH MEHRA, has undoubtedly given a befitting tribute to India's super-sprinter Milkha Singh by making a cult biopic with a mix of myriad emotions that will evoke a range of emotions in your heart while watching this movie.An average director with cinematic palate and sensibilities could have easily fallen into the trap of glorifying Milkha's achievements as an athlete who has won 77 times of the 80 races that he ran. But Mehra has chosen to portray emotions over victories and hardships over glories of his protagonist to narrate an absorbing tale. There are no exaggerated dramatic flourishes here, no playing to the galleries. Unlike other period films which have conveniently and lazily restored to antiques, artifacts and vintage songs, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag simply and effortlessly emerges from the character and his milieu.
WOW MOMENTS : Watch out for a sequence where-in Farhan after loosing a qualifier goes to a washroom and repeatedly slaps himself while standing in front of a mirror for messing up on the field.Each slap makes us flinch as they don't look or seem like fake slaps. Also, the scenes depicting Milkha's rigorous training with his coach have been picturised with utmost perfection and are a treat to watch.
CONCLUSION : All in all, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is certainly a movie worth watching for many reasons. The movie makes an earnest attempt to tell a biopic in an engaging and the most sincere way it could have been told. Although its a bit long long having a run-time of close 200 minutes but you get truly inspired to see Milkha take those giant leaps of faith to win the race of his life.
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