Release Date : Jul 12,2013
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Review by : Kaushik L M
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Production: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Viacom 18
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Hikaru Ito, Meesha Shafi, Sonam Kapoor
Direction: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Screenplay: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Story: Prasoon Joshi
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Background score: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Distribution: Viacom 18

Right from the day, the trailer of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, showcasing Farhan Akhtar at his athletic best, was released, the expectations for the movie have been on a real high. The music of the movie with the title track and the rocking Zinda number, further escalated the hype meter. With movies such as Rang De Basanti to his credit, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has quite a lot of eyes on him as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, a rare Indian sporting biopic, releases today.

The film begins with the Rome Olympics in 1960 where Milkha Singh finished 4th in the 400m and faltered just at the doorstep of Olympic glory. Soon after, there is an initiative by the Indian and Pakistani governments for a ‘Friendship Games’ and Milkha is expected to lead the Indian contingent. He shockingly backs away due to personal reasons and this sends shockwaves all over.

The film then moves back and forth as we are told about Milkha’s past through his first athletics coach in the Army (played brilliantly by Pawan Malhotra). Glimpses of his childhood, the emotional toll taken by the partition on him, his days of dacoity as a young rebel, his first love, his initiation to the Army and of course his exploits and incredible hard work as a runner are part of the tale.

How Milkha achieves inner peace and comes to terms with the ghosts of his tormented past and becomes the world renowned ‘Flying Sikh’ is the finale of this glorious attempt by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Prasoon Joshi to pay tribute to Milkha Singh, India’s foremost athlete.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag wouldn’t have been half what it is, without the total commitment and effort of Farhan Akhtar. You can’t imagine anyone else as Milkha. His long locks, the authentic facial hair, the steely and wiry physique, those incredible 8 pack abs and the overall spontaneity that Farhan exhibits make Milkha come alive on screen.

The film is packed with so many touching and uplifting moments and the writing by Prasoon Joshi is of the highest order. The training montage scenes are sure to inspire aspiring athletes and seeing Farhan run at high altitude with a tyre tied to his body is jaw-dropping. After every workout he squeezes the sweat out of his shirt and collects them in a mug and later a bucket. He doesn’t even mind the falling rain and is focused only on his workout!!!

The pre-interval scene when Milkha runs with a badly injured leg but still achieves a National record with his sheer commitment and dedication, is among the most uplifting scenes ever. You’ll wonder at the stuff this man is made of.

All the running scenes in the movie have been filmed very well in grand stadiums packed to the rafters. The visual effects lift these sequences to a whole different level.

Milkha’s elder sister is almost like a mother to him and when he comes and stands before her as an army man in the Indian jersey and presents her a set of earrings, her tears of joy are so genuine. Divya Dutta plays this sister’s role brilliantly.

This particular jersey scene takes more significance as in the initial stages, Milkha longs for a similar jersey and is termed a thief when he secretly tries on the jersey of a fellow sportsman. How he strives hard to win himself an Indian jersey and the pride that he exhibits when he gets his first jersey are really moving and indicative of the humble Indian sportsman’s character.

The episodes when Milkha feels jittery on his first flight are hilarious and when he responds to a question if he is ‘relaxing’ with ‘No, I am Milkha Singh’, the crowd erupts in laughter at this typical Sardar joke.

The film also shows the staunch romantic in Milkha and the way he gulps down big jars of lassi and completes a hundred push-ups just to showcase himself as a big hero in his lady love’s locality, is entertaining to the core.

Among the women in Milkha’s life, Sonam Kapoor as his first love is so one-dimensional and her appearance reminds us of her look in movies like Mausam and Raanjhanaa. Her role could have been done away with. Rebecca Breeds as Milkha’s Australian girlfriend, is sparkling and shares some sizzling hot scenes with Farhan. Their little romance, though short-lived, is endearing.

The research that has gone into the movie is evident as the important turning points in Milkha’s career such as the Asian Games in Tokyo 1958, the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff 1958 and the two Olympics in Melbourne and Rome have been presented well on screen. His ‘crowning glory’ moments such as the 400m world record and the Padma Shri honor are also highlighted.

Among the other actors, the kid who plays the younger Milkha is a huge star in the making as acting seems to come really easy to him. Prakash Raj as the stern Army commander plays a rare positive character compared to his general 'loud villain' roles in Hindi commercial cinema. Yograj Singh as Milkha's National coach is authoritative and looks the part as the no-nonsense coach. Dalip Tahil as Jawaharlal Nehru is an example of what good casting and authentic makeup can do.

Binod Pradhan’s work behind the lens, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s songs and background score along with Tubby and the color tone of the film give it more character.

On the downside, the movie is really long at more than 3 hours and the director could have done away with few of the romantic endeavors of Milkha and focused more on his exploits and commitment as a runner. A few might complain about the length but there is no denying the director’s vision and belief in the script.

The movie ends with Milkha’s quote about the virtues of hard work, dedication and commitment and we must say, the team of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag have stood by his quotes and made him proud.

Verdict: A royal salute to the creative team’s vision and Farhan Akhtar’s total commitment …



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