It’s getting increasingly difficult for a film critic to review a Salman Khan film. Every movie has a set of pre-defined rules to review upon. For example an Adam Sandler film cannot be watched with the same mindset as a Kieslowski film. A critic has to know that the Sandler film will not have the storytelling nuance and finesse of the Kieslowski one.
The aim of the Kieslowski film is to make you reflect upon your own life, while the Sandler film is designed to only entertain people looking for some harmless fun through offensive jokes. Bhai is the Adam Sandler of India, and inBajrangi Bhaijaan he explains the aforementioned deeply relevant and multi-layered filmmaking and film appreciation argument with just one line – E le le le le le le le le le le.
The best thing that could be said of Bajrangi Bhaijaan is that it’s not as painfully offensive as Bodyguard or as cancerous to the brain as Kick. Those films remain with you like scars for the rest of your life, Bajrangi Bhaijaanhowever can be forgotten the next morning. And that, in this case, somehow works as a positive aspect.
This is also the kind of film that makes you ponder over a few questions — under the garb of commercial masala filmmaking: How stupid is too stupid? How manipulative is too manipulative? How contrived is so contrived that it looks like an agenda? At what point do you draw the line of suspending your disbelief to swallow screenwriting subterfuge?
The story feels like a novel written by Nicholas Sparks in a Versova cafe, with Bhai standing next to him, micro managing him with a smile:
Kitschy contrivance #1 – A little girl from Pakistan is extra cute because she’s mute.
Kitschy Contrivance #2 – The girl, on her way back from India in the Samjhauta express spots a little lamb stuck in a ditch outside the train. So she gets off the train and decided to help her. Awww look at that girl helping the lamb, so cute.
Kitschy Contrivance #3 – The train suddenly starts moving when she’s outside with the lamb – she’s now stuck in the middle of nowhere, in the buffer zone between India and Pakistan.
Kitschy Contrivance #4 – The girl’s mother is asleep during all this, and while she sees her mom snoozing at the window, she cannot scream for help as the train chugs ahead, because she’s mute. Poor thing trundles helplessly with a raised hand watching her mother and the train disappear into the fog.
Heart Thumping Manipulation #1 – After two minutes a goods train stops at the same spot, thereby giving her hope that she can board it and follow the previous train. Alas! The engine disengages and disappears into the night, while another engine arrives from the opposite direction, attaches itself mercilessly to the goods train carrying the girl, and drags it to India.
Hundreds of thousands of more instances of Kitschy Contrivances and Heart Thumping Manipulation follow, as the little lost girl meets Bhai, who plays Pavan Kumar, a simpleton with a golden heart. As you’ve no doubt guessed from the trailers, Bhai cannot accept such sadness in a little girl, and embarks on a heroic mission to reunite her with her parents in Pakistan.
Things become difficult because as per Kitschy Contrivance #957 the girl can neither read nor write, apart from being mute so there’s no way to know which city or village in Pakistan she is from. This leads to various ‘humorous’ circumstances, which no doubt tickle your funny bones with the sensitivity of a car suddenly running over your ribcage.
This is of course after WTF Is That #78 where a woman (Kareena Kapoor), who is a smart and progressive school teacher in Delhi, falls in love with a small town, obviously dimwitted bloke who’s flunked his exams ten times in a row, merely 3 days after meeting him. And when I mean dimwitted bloke I mean a guy who genuflects in reverence every time he sees a monkey.
As Bhai makes increasingly more ludicrous (and thereby crowd pleasingly funnier) decisions as he crosses the border with the girl, the KCs and HTMs and WTFs keep yanking on your nether regions as the film progresses. Naturally nothing makes sense, but that’s the beauty of it. You could add some winged Unicorns looking at the camera while singing Atif Aslam songs in the middle of the scenes of this movie and it wouldn’t affect the tone of the film.
The final fifteen minutes, which consist of one million KCs and HTMs rolled together in one bunch, elevates the film to a higher order of filmmaking, making it by far the most manipulative film ever made in the history of cinema. Seriously, this is not a hyperbole, you have to see the film to believe it.
This is a film where Bhai makes intense geopolitical statements, addresses race and gender politics, demonstrates the futility of religion in modern times while simultaneously displaying the awesome power of Lord Hanuman, showcases the inability of the common man to speak up against political injustice with a metaphorical mute girl, espouses the need for humans to be truthful and uncorrupt, displays the triumph of the human spirit over unbeatable odds, and demands the need for more vocal cord medical research.
Has Kieslowski, with his profound understanding of life,explored any of these themes, let alone in a single movie? Of course not. Bhai rocks.