Opening this week

Film review: ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ has two stars, neither of whom is called Salman or Kareena

The knee-high Harshaali Malhotra and the redoubtable Nawazuddin Siddiqui steal the show in Kabir Khan’s seriocomic cross-border drama.

Salman Khan conquered the box office a while ago, and even he probably cannot stifle a yawn at yet another turn at sending villains flying into the air with a single punch, exposing his perfectly sculpted chest, and wriggling his hips in something resembling a dance move.

This doesn’t mean that Khan is going to stop saving India from itself – his legions of fans demand nothing less from him. But since the nation is already in the bag, Khan turns his eyes towards Pakistan, an undeniably difficult neighbour but also a lucrative film territory. In Kabir Khan’s seriocomic Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which the superstar has co-produced, Salman Khan plays the peace dove whose flight over the barbed wire that separates India and Pakistan melts the hearts of citizens on either side.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which is based on a story by Telugu writer Vijayendra Prasad, presents Khan not as an action hero with god-like powers but an ordinary mortal with an extraordinary dedication to social service. The opportunity presents itself to Khan’s Pavan when Shahida, a mute six year-old girl from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, lands up in India. Pavan is a failed student and a failed wrestler. He has been successful only in love, with the immaculately dressed Rasika (Kareena Kapoor Khan), and his resolve to restore Shahida to her home is also a mission to prove himself to Rasika’s strong-willed father (Sharad Saxena).

The movie’s geopolitical concerns and peacenik bent are laid out in the taut and moving opening sequence. Shahida has travelled to India with her mother, but on the way back, she wanders out of the Samjhauta Express and fails to get back on board. Borders once closed do not open easily, especially when they are between nations that have gone to war. Thus it is that Shahida finds herself in Kurukshetra, where Pavan is dancing for the consumption of real bhakts and Salman Khan’s bhakts.

This is a movie that consciously and unconsciously appropriates cultural signs and symbols. Hence Pavan wears a locket shaped like a mace, is the vegetarian son of a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh member, greets everybody with “Jai Shri Ram”, and never passes a Hanuman idol or a monkey without genuflecting before them.

Pavan is also pure of heart despite being clueless about communities that are not like his, and when he learns through a series of amusing circumstances that Shahida is neither a Brahmin nor a Kshatriya but a Pakistani Muslim, he decides to take her back home by hook or crook.

All you need is love

Every fairytale has its princess, and the honours in this film go not to Kapoor Khan, who is content with a strictly ornamental role, but to Harshaali Malhotra, whose expressive face and irresistible charms steal the show all the way.

Rasika is relegated to the background as Pavan and Shahida smuggle their way into Pakistan and run into an assortment of large-hearted Pakistanis as well as nationalists who are convinced that Pavan is a spy. The water cannons that were turned on in the opening sequence are in full flow in the manipulative three-hanky climax, but before that, Pavan has another scene-stealer to contend with. The redoubtable Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Chand Nawab, a small-time reporter who helps Pavan and Shahida reach their destination.

The complete lack of logic in the way people behave and events transpire on the other side of the border gives the movie much-needed levity, and is perfectly summed up in a line tossed by Chand Nawab to the deeply religious Pavan: “Will Bajrangbali helps us in Pakistan too?”

Given the cock-eyed manner in which Pavan navigates Pakistan without so much as a map and unerringly makes his way to Shahida’s home, the question answers itself.

Kabir Khan’s attempts to foster bonhomie and empathy between the great subcontinental rivals are as touching as they are earnest. Since the movie is often seen from Shahida’s knee-high perspective, it follows that the complexity of the Indo-Pak question and the business of the status of Kashmir are boiled down to the simplest of thoughts and emotions: the flags are different but the people are the same.

Although this approach still does not solve the Kashmir problem, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is refreshingly free of jingoism, and tries to navigate difficult truths, such as the bigoted reaction of Rasika’s family towards consuming meat and renting out to Muslims, through comedy. The message doesn’t as much sink home as it is rammed in.

Although the movie is as handsomely produced and glossily shot as Kabir Khan’s previous productions, the director’s track record of sluggish pacing, be it New York or Ek Tha Tiger, is unbroken with his latest release, which stretches on for 159 minutes. The post-interval bits in Pakistan are an unruly jumble, and Pavan’s self-declared lack of intelligence makes him the unlikeliest of heroes. Salman Khan will regard Bajrangi Bhaijaan as a career redefining moment, but his limited acting skills show up in every scene.

Luckily for Pavan and the viewers, he has Shahida and Chand Nawab by his side. One communicates through her smile, while the other nails every line he utters.



We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.