How bad is Salman Khan's Bharat film

There is a single beatings scene of Salman Khan against a superior force from a bunch of evil hooligans towards the end of the film BHARAT (2019), directed and written by Ali Abbas Zafar. And then the main character played by Salman Khan has just turned 70 years old. If you take that as an announcement for the next fifteen, twenty years of the 53-year-old Bollywood superstar, then you can guess that he actually still has big plans. But otherwise it remains mostly peaceful in BHARAT.

With a full gray beard, gray hair and glasses, Khan plays this aged version of his film character, whose name with "Bharat" is the same as a Sanskrit name for the Indian state. Such not-too-subtle symbols and meanings run through the entire film. But it fits in with the very simple plot without major surprises, which joins one private event, connected with a historical section within the period from 1947-2010, to the next.

It begins with independence and division: a family, representing an infinite number of similar cases, is torn apart in the whole murderous chaos. Mother, sister and Bharat make it to India. The father and the second daughter, whose hand Bharat could not hold on to the roof of a train, stay behind in Pakistan, but also not together. The place of the intended reunion is a shop in Bombay, which belongs to the uncle and the aunt, where one comes first. Bharat takes on the task of looking after the family instead of the father. And above all, of course, that means earning money. And so it goes through economic upswing, crisis, economic liberalization to modern, economically globally integrated India.

BHARAT is a family film as a national film that delivers a very successful mixture of pathos and comedy. Above all, it is a thoroughly positive progressive film about India, a bit like writing a résumé, where you leave out the unpleasant as much as possible or at least write it down. The causes of the division are a bit deeper than a few men in the back room thinking that people would be happier then. Indira Gandhi's state of emergency in the 70s has suddenly ended, but I can't remember it starting anywhere in the movie. And even if the division is at the center, neither war nor terrorism exist here.

At the very beginning there is a scene that symbolizes this method: a little boy discovers a whole train full of brutally slaughtered corpses. It must have happened quickly, because many are still sitting in their seats covered in blood. The father rushes over and holds a hand in front of the child's eyes. The worst is not shown to the viewer in the episode. It's supposed to be a family film, a nationwide feel-good film that doesn't hurt anyone, and the calculation seems to be working in view of the box office results that are constantly being announced on social media. And it's an extremely likeable film that is simply fun to watch. And there is no real villain in the film who artificially dramatizes the plot. It is the very simple resistance of everyday life that you have to fight against here.

Bharat is an everyday hero. He looks after the family, earns money, risks his life as a motorcyclist in the circus, is not afraid of hard work, toils in the Middle Eastern oil fields, works dangerously underground, saves his buddies and himself from subterranean asphyxiation. And he dares one of the first illegitimate relationships in India, which was approved by the mother. A pioneering achievement indeed. That doesn't even exist in the colorful Hindi cinema of the mid-sixties. And he mastered the leap into modern times heroically and with self-conquest, the change from the cozy Basargasse to the modern shopping center, even if his brother-in-law ensures that the land and shop owners don't leave everything to the internationalized predatory vultures of large-scale investments.

Bharat tends to make pathetic, patriotic speeches. At one point this is ironicized. After all, you're not in the cinema. But then it comes to the collective singing of the national anthem. After all, you're in the cinema. Bollywood can save lives is also shown in the episode with the Somali operetta pirates, whose leader prefers to dance and sing Amitabh Bachchan songs than to rob the ship. In general, there are at least two other allusions to Amitabh Bachchan. And now we all know the origin of the famous egg scene in Manmohan Desai's AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY (1977), incidentally also a lost-and-found story, here about three brothers with different religions who were separated from each other in childhood. With the original BHARAT score, or rather the songs, it doesn't look so great. There are three or four songs, I remember that. But the songs themselves aren't particularly memorable.

Ali Abbas Jafar directs functionally and technically safe. Mainly the main actor, who is as experienced and personable as ever, is put in the limelight. Khan knows how to get the audience on his side, and as a narrator, he also communicates directly with the viewer on another level. BHARAT is, after SULTAN (2016) and TIGER ZINDA HAI (2017), the third collaboration between Jafar and Khan. And successful again. And again, Zafar moves in the paths set by director Kabir Khan.

While the Tiger film was the completely irony-free, hard action sequel to the witty spy film EK THA TIGER (2012), BHARAT seems like a somewhat less subtle version of BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN (2015), one of the most beautiful and best films of recent years. It is an India-Pakistan story with the theme of family reunification, including successful tear-inducing scenes on the border. The focus is on a little girl in the form of the little sister, who for a few scenes takes shape in the form of another little girl. The fact that he never lies is replaced by a promise to the father that he will take care of the family. And there is the somewhat naive and dull family man who gets a wife who is mentally superior in terms of education and career success, this time in the form of Katrina Kaif.

And actually, the best thing about the film is Katrina Kaif. BHARAT lifts her figure above the one-dimensional tunnel vision of the main character, which is only aimed at one goal and which the trauma of division, especially in the visions of the sister who was then disappearing into the crowd, does not let go. Kaif challenges Salman Khan as Bharat, sometimes ironicizing his behavior. A film couple that looks very good on the non-glamorous and everyday. And somehow you can feel that the two have a great and silent mutual agreement in real life. They were actually a real couple until 2010 and are still good friends. But I don't want to get into the biographical right now. And anyway, Salman Khan has just publicly announced that he does not believe in marriage as an institution. It also fits that it remains completely illegitimate for him and Kaif in the film.