Alert: Long, sometimes rambling read ahead. Reader discretion advised; the course might meander, and your interest waver; however, steadfast I remain… the words won’t let me be 😀
As I have, before, let me place my lack of credentials in doing any sort of review, either of book or movie (please refer to the sidebar that has the disclaimer in place 😀 ). This here is one more example from those here (link); I am here simply to share my experience of it. You won’t find technicalities, and references and names ( I know, I know, Movie buff that I profess to be, I ought to do more of that!) – for me, movies are magic. They take me out of myself, let me get into the screen that plays out almost every imaginable fantasy and mood. And sometimes leaves me breathless for having been part of it all 🙂 I could wax eloquent on this, but I’m sure you’re not in the mood 😆
The title of the post came with a (non)-review I thought of for Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. I did not do it, because I had not watched the first ten minutes (late 😦 ), and would you believe (you’ll probably want to pelt me with bricks for this!) we missed THE song. Madhuri Dixit’s! *ducks to avoid the missiles flying everywhere* My penance, and your gift? I did not write that review. 😀
However, the title was in place, and an empty post page went into a draft. Till now. Till I realized what a perfect title it made, for the ONE movie that has quite captured my heart, and injected, no, imbued me with such inspiration, that I never knew was possible, and that too, for a movie. I’m of course, talking of Bhag Milkha Bhag. There. The dream, and the relentless pursuit of it, not knowing a dream was indeed unfolding. No airy fantasy dream, too. This time it was life. A dream. Life. And, suddenly, where the film is concerned, it is interchangeable. But, I get ahead of myself! And by now the few faithfuls here know how I love to meander 😀
We’ve all admired and endlessly sung paeans to Milkha Singh, the real one. Pushed around a few jokes too, about the ‘relaxing’ and the ‘Milkha Singh’ variety. Suddenly, I’m ashamed, I did, too, in the past. All I had was a ringside view, through a short extract from his book, once. Now, the story, fact, fictionalized perhaps to an extent, and its attendant emotions make me feel all the smaller, for having done that once upon a sometime. That’s what this film did to me. We knew that it wasn’t just luck, but deep and persevering commitment to doing what he did, to make that wonder of a season of medals happen, and yet, years on, it was simply taken for granted, his success, and brushed aside, just as easily.
Bhag Milkha Bhag jolts you out of that jaded almost indifferent attitude you have for Sport in India. It shows you. It makes you feel. And it makes you wish, hope, and dream that someday, someone will then become a Milkha again. Sigh. Almost 500 plus words and nothing on the film yet. 😆 Typical, ain’t it?
The movie opens on the one moment Milkha Singh, and indeed every Indian back then even now, would find unforgivable. His loss, if one can term it that way, at the 1960 Rome Olympics. So, it’s done, the lead up to the finale of a great career. He lost, and so where does the film go? Forward, by going backward. But this time, the traditional flashback, from the early days, chronologically proceeding to its fated conclusion is not the manner of this plot. I liked that tremendously. Of course, it goes without saying, I am biased. 😀
The story moves further, to his refusal to go to Pakistan, to participate in a friendly competition with them, and lead the team. We learn, in a slow unfolding of his story, from different persons, especially his first coach, and a younger Milkha making a counter-point, adding one more pieces to the bigger picture. His younger days in Multan in undivided India. The horrors of the partition. His deep love for his sister who took care of him. His foray into being a rebellious juvenile delinquent. (His biography does speak of time spent in jail, though the other activities of the juvenile may have more fiction than fact 🙂 ) I’m being chronological here, though it does not necessarily follow this order in the film. The movement, back and forth, from present moment to the time in the past, is very well edited, and quite seamless in its progress. It unfolds mainly through the eyes, and the heart of his first coach, Gurdev Singh, ably portrayed by Pavan Malhotra, who is trying to explain to Pandit Nehru’s aide why Milkha has refused to go to Pakistan for the friendly games. Bit by bit, each bit complete and steadfast to Milkha is this tribute to the inner demon that drove him; while paradoxically, the innocence of the sportsman shines through. Throughout.
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh is exceptional. Brilliant. Awesome. In the true sense of each of these words. Truly. He carries the movie almost single-handedly, though one must give credit to each of his co-actors, even Sonam Kapoor. 😛 . Farhan is Milkha. You can’t not believe otherwise. He’s been described as ‘phenomenal’, ‘brilliant’, ‘inspirational’… by his own colleagues in the industry, in this film. True. Fact. The young actor who portrayed Milkha’s boyhood days, Japtej Singh (read about him here ) is almost on par with Farhan Akhtar. It’s the eyes that mesmerize. That show that innocence, the dream. Their faces mirror life, each at the point in life they are in. In each case, the actor and the character mesh in a way that one does not feel there is a mask. There is none. Farhan is Milkha. You’ve got to see him light up the screen to believe. A finer metaphor to have evolved, I do not think I have seen, in recent times.
And the voiceover of ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’. At different points in the story there is a reason it rings out loud, that you do not need any other background sound. Be it desperation, encouragement, rage, and on occasion, a heartbroken plea – each at its particular moment rang clear, releasing a flood of emotion for the onscreen Milkha and the almost always us.
But the innocence of the man. His dream. His burning desire. His shame, at the Melbourne Olympics. And his determination to undo it. Amazing. Just amazing.
What did I forget? The music. The MUSIC! It has been playing on loop in our car, and the remote is stilled when it plays on whichever channel it is at. Shankar-Loy-Ehsaan have done a beautiful job. The screen play is fantastic. The editing too, superb. The dialogues witty, even though there is a lot of Punjabi. And Milkha’s ‘haau‘, meaning ‘YES’. For me, there isn’t even one wrong note in this symphony to that great Athlete. Not one. The scene where he re-visits his home in Pakistan is a goosebumpy one. We were in a multiplex where most of the crowd were young college students. During that scene, where a heartbroken Milkha sobs uncontrollably, unknowingly your heart stops. I expected to hear jeers, and boos from the active audience we had. Not a murmur. You should have been there. Not one single murmur. It was as if we were collectively reliving that moment with the character. How many films make us do that?
Farhan Akhtar, Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, Prasoon Joshi, take a bow. Along with each person who was involved in this film.
Would I recommend this movie? Duh!
Or as Milkha would say, in the film (and probably in real life too) – Haau
Milkha Singh. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Sir!
16, 17th July, 2013
Link recommened for reading: Milkha’s biography on wiki
Pictures, courtesy, Google Images.
P.S. I’m not really satisfied with this non review. Sigh. There is so much more I could have said differently. But, at one thousand three hundred fifty plus words, I must stop. 😀