I have to admit, I went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijan (BB) with a lot of prejudice. I am not a big fan of Kabir Khan, have not liked Kareena Kapoor other than Jab We Met. I am not a Salman Fan either nd despite that I watch all his Eid releases on first day.
I had four hypotheses before going to the theater and I had made an outline of the review I was going to write. Generally it's a set template for a Kabir Khan Salman Khan film. Nonetheless, my predetermined conclusion of BB being a mediocre film was proved wrong.
1. Kareena Kapoor will be unnecessary in the film â€“ Proved True. Not just Kareena, the entire subplot of Salman's love interest was completely unnecessary. In the first half, a good twenty minutes were spent on establishing the love story between Salman and Kareena. As the film lasted 163 minutes, cutting fifteen of those minutes and a song could have made the edit sharper and more gripping. The role could have been played by any actress. Salman could have been a married or single man in the film. It would not have had any impact on the final outcome.
2. Nawazuddin Siddiui will be brilliant â€“ Proved True. And boy he was fantastic. His intro sequence is a straight lift from Pakistan's very own Chaand Nawab and as it turns out, his character is actually called Chaand Nawab. Nawaz comes on screen only in the second half of BB and took the burden of carrying the film on his gifted shoulders. His chemistry with Salman is something seen very rarely between male leads of a film. Immaculate comic timing, perfect body language and expressive eyes. I am not gonna say more but if someone is selling T-shirts saying "I heart Nawazudding Siddiqui", let me know.
3. Salman Khan will not be able to emote as per the requirements of the role â€“ 50/50. Salman as an actor has limitations, we all know that. Have those precincts ever made any difference? No. Salman is not a method actor. He will never be Naseer or Aamir. I watch Salman Khan films to see whether he is better than his other films or not. In BB, the actor has put in a genuine effort to emote and get into the skin of the role. This is one of the best performances of bhai's career, if not the best. His demeanor as a simple villager is to the point, his performance towards the latter half of the film is strong. He has a very powerful scene in the first half at a brothel, where he struggled to convince on the emotions, but still did better than his other films. BB has no over the top action, or dances, or shirtless sequences or romantic songs. It is heavily dependent on the lead actor. Funnily, despite all the limitations Salman Khan has, I was unable to picture any other actor playing Bajrangi. BB did not need an actor. BB needed Salman Khan the star to deliver and he has delivered.
The good thing is that Salman is not the only super star in the film. The other one is Harshaali Malhotra, the child actor playing Shahida. Super cute, super charming and super convincing. It was a challenging role with no dialogs and the kid really showed her competence despite presence of some big names in the film. Darsheel Safari level stuff.
Kabir Khan is just a glorified, slightly more intelligent Farah Khan â€“ Proved Wrong. This is where I was completely wrong. The problem I have had with other KK films is that they were on a pretense of being intelligent and logical social dramas, which in reality they were not be it New York or Ek Tha Tiger. They were more intelligent than Farah Khan, Prabhudeva and Rohit Shetty films, hence made the masses (read Salman Khan fans) feel that they are watching intellectual cinema. This strategy resulted in big commercial success for KK. That still does not mean that those films were good films.
BB is different. KK has been vigilant about sense and aesthetics more than just looking into a mass appeal. This could be a new beginning for a successful director to becoming a good director. He has been helped a great deal by Vijayendra Prasad's story and a capable production design team of Rajnish Hedao. Vijayendra' a household name in South market, has brought an original story with a lot of room to attract cine- goers. Rajnish's team, well known for PK, Rockstar and Three Idiots, already has vast experience of multi- location shoots. BB spreads across various cities and weathers and production design and art direction is always tough for such films. Credit to KK for utilizing the resources at hand in the best possible way.
Lastly, he has done remarkably well in treatment of the screenplay. He knew when to take creative liberty in best interest of the film (Armies of both countries being lenient on borders etc.) and knew when to make things look realistic (tunnels at the border, Samjhota express, Shahid Afridi etc.). He could have done better with the duration of the climax though by eliminating some unnecessary emotional manipulations.
BB is not an Anti-Pakistan film. The filmmakers have tried being reasonable as much as they could without ruining the story requirements. They have shown good and bad on both the sides. The film also touched upon religious divide and there it has shown Muslims as the more accommodating of the two religions. What it does communicate strongly is the secular message of modern India.
It's a possibility that it will be a lesser commercial success than Kick or Ek Tha Tiger. BB is not a typical Salman Khan film. BB is not a typical Kabir Khan film. BB is a good film.