Salman Khan

Salman Khan plays wrestler Sultan Ali Khan in “Sultan.”

Eid has always been a Salman Khan special since 2009, with the exception of one year when he had no release at all. And with every Eid since 2010, Salman Khan’s films have been getting bigger and bigger at the box office — “Dabangg,” “Bodyguard,” “Ek Tha Tiger,” “Kick” and “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” progressively being his biggest blockbusters.

In sheer business scale, “Sultan” will keep the tradition going. Thanks to the humongous opening worldwide, the inflation in ticket rates and the long weekend, “Sultan” will ensure a higher score than “Bajrangi...,” and, though one should not compare dissimilar films, this one falls a bit behind in the overall emotional voltage and crispness. But that is not the fault of this film but of its subject — which is a love story and a tale of redemption as against the tale of a man who is determined to go beyond reasonable duty to take back a child to its mother.

The length of the film could have been ‘trendily’ trimmed by about 20 minutes to make the film even more watchable, not that it bores at any point or will disappoint fans of Salman Khan, who love to have more of him. The music is squeezed mostly into the first half, and all said and done, could have been better used. Only “Baby Ko Bass” and “Jag Ghoomeya” are really well shot, while the rest do not give us the proper feel of the lyrics (the best part of the good Vishal-Shekhar music) and their expressive genius.

Artur Zurawski’s camera is magical throughout the ethnic sequences, once again underscoring how competent overseas DOPs get into the skin of the Indian ethos. The wrestling sequences in the village are brilliantly done by Jagdish Kaliraman and Anal Arasu (the mud-pit wrestling). The VFX is comparatively sparingly used but competently done, and the editing by Rameshwar Bhagat is superb in the first half, while getting a wee bit languid in the second. Julius Packiam once again proves to be one the background music aces around in today’s films, and the only one who works among these limited number of geniuses in Yash Raj Films projects.

The film narrates the story of Sultan Ali Khan (Salman Khan), a 30-something bereft of any focus in life till he encounters Aarfa (Anushka Sharma), a daughter who is more of a son to her dad (Kumud Mishra) who runs a wrestling ‘akhada’ in the small town. The girl, intent on fulfilling her dad’s dream, is educated but aims to be an Olympic wrestler.

Sultan decides to live up to her expectations, starts wrestling too, and soon reaches great heights. They win championships at national and global levels together in their respective categories, and Aarfa soon becomes pregnant, sacrificing her Olympic dream. Sultan wins the Olympics and more, but success goes to his head, and there is a terrible consequence in their lives.

All this is narrated in flashback as a professional wrestling tournament owner Oberoi (Pariskshat Sahni) tells his son Akash (Amit Sadh) to get Sultan to fight in the ring and revive their failing business, as he had watched him once several years ago. After being turned down gruffly by Sultan, who is now living alone, hoping to win back his woman, Aakash encounters Sultan’s best buddy Govind (Anant Sharma) and hears this story.

He approaches Sultan again, and presents his proposal in a way that Sultan will gain from it. Then he has to get a sponsor and a trainer, for Sultan has been out of training for eight years, has developed a flabby body, and is now on the wrong side of 40.

Zafar has evolved with this film as a director, someone from the new lot who actually narrates a film straight, sans technical or any other gimmickry, and improves big-time on his earlier movies. As a writer, he is superb in his use of the Haryanvi dialect, and his hold on the emotional chord is laudable. His script is clever, with points seemingly casually mentioned (like Sultan’s blood group or the killer machine wrestler Marcus) attaining significance later.

The YRF base of a strong love story is maintained, progressive social comments are also made at the right junctures, and the axiom that pride comes before a fall is made the crux of this film of rise, fall and redemption that scores high in the last 20 minutes.

Salman Khan is the rock in the film — absolutely magnificent in all aspects, especially in his serious second-half moments. Anushka Sharma is perhaps at her best here ever. She lives the character of Aarfa and, though not seen much in the second half, is amazingly in tune with her role. Their Haryanvi dialects are a delight as well as a novelty. Special mention of two brilliant supporting artistes is overdue: Kumud Mishra as Aarfa’s father and Anant Sharma as Govind are superlative. Randeep Hooda is good as usual as the coach, while Amit Sadh is likable as Akash. Parikshat Sahni is good as the businessman.

This is a movie with both a heart and a solid body that delivers a socko punch of entertainment. Rs. 350 crore net in India, here we come!

Rating: ****1/2

Yash Raj Films present “Sultan”

Produced by: Aditya Chopra

Written and directed by: Ali Abbas Zafar

Music: Vishal and Shekhar

Starring: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Amit Sadh, Kumud Mishra, Anant Sharma, Parikshat Sahni, Randeep Hooda (Sp. App.), Meiyang Chang, Kunra Sait and others

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