There has been a slew of movies which have depicted the strained relations between India and Pakistan. Films like Henna, Gadar, Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya and Veer-Zaara mostly featured two lovers who were from the either side of the border. Kabir Khan’s last film ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ had an Indian RAW agent falling in love with a Pakistani ISI agent. Now, Kabir teams up with Salman Khan for ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, another film that explores the hostility between India and Pakistan and tries to send across a message of peace between the two nations.
Pavan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi (Salman Khan) is a devotee of Lord Hanuman who is in Delhi to seek his fortune and make some money so that he could marry Rasika (Kareena Kapoor Khan) a school teacher. One day, Pavan comes across Shahida (Harshaali Malhotra), a Pakistani girl who has been seperated from her presents. Pavan, a staunch Hindu, is oblivious of the fact she is from Pakistan and a Muslim. He stumbles upon the truth much later but resolves to reunite her with her family. Pavan decides to send her alone to Pakistan but because of an untowardly incident, he decides to accompany her all the way to Pakistan. Both of them do not have a passport or visa but Pavan, a devotee of Lord Hanuman, steers clear of lying or doing any unscrupulous activity to reach Pakistan. This makes their journey all the more difficult. Pavan is branded an Indian spy by the Pakistan government and the police is instructed to get him arrested at any cost. In this tumultuous journey, Pavan and Shahida are aided by a Pakistani journalist called Chaand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).
While the first half has all the trappings of a typical Salman Khan entertainer, we see Kabir Khan’s sensibilities take over in the second half. There are several engaging moments in the first half but the proceedings are fairly predictable. The film trudges along predictably but entertains thanks to Kabir’s deft execution. What does not work is the romantic track between Pavan and Rasika. Sure, the presence of the strong minded and liberal Rasika does add some weight but her romance with Pavan Pavan could have been more elaborately written or done away with. The sequence in which Pavan rescues from an indecorous situation is predictable but you cannot help but cheer for the hero as he goes about beating the hell out of the goons. The second half of the film has a more subdued tone to it. The violence is minimal what with the Salman not getting much scope to show his heroism. In fact, the cinematic style reminds you of the director’s debut film ‘Kabul Express’. But, the second half, despite a largely realistic approach, has a few sequences that come across as far-fetched. The ease with which Pavan convinces the Pakistani soldiers is not very believable. The climax sequence is over simplistic but successfully manages to make you break in to tears.
It is impossible to imagine anybody else essaying the role of Bajrangi apart from Salman Khan. The kind of persona one associates with him is there but Pavan is remarkably different from the kind of characters the actor he has played in the last couple of years. Salman plays a simple and naïve man who stays away from any kind of violence or unscrupulousness. There is just one over-the-top action sequence (which is impactful nonetheless) and yes, he does not take off his shirt even once. Salman Khan lends his characteristic charm to Pavan and is endearing. Kareena Kapoor Khan gets a few moments to shine but that’s about it. Her presence is conspicuously missed in the second half. The director does great disservice to her as an actress of her calibre deserved a much better role. Harshaali Malhotra wins you over with her angelic smile and wonderful performance. The seven year old gives a performance that is way beyond her age. Nawazuddin Siddiqui gets some good lines and he provides several poignant moments in the second half. His camaraderie with Salman is terrific. Sharat Saxena gives a very good performance. Alka Badola Kaushal is effective. Rajesh Sharma is terrific as the Pakistani police officer. Om Puri leaves a mark in a brief role.
Kabir Khan skilfully merges the elements of a Salman Khan entertainer and his own vision and comes up with a sensible, crowd pleasing film. While he gives Salman Khan fans enough material to chew on in the first half, he comes in to his own in the second half. The story (K. Vijayendra Prasad) is good but over simplistic at the same time. The screenplay (Kabir Khan, Parvez Shaikh and Asad Husain) has been structured well. The dialogues (Kabir Khan; additional dialogues: Kausar Munir) are well written. Although the film is set in India and Pakistan, it has been shot at various locations of India (and not Pakistan). One gets to see some areas of Kashmir which have been rarely explored in films earlier. Aseem Mishra’s camerawork is splendid. A couple of songs (Pritam) are tuneful but the soundtrack could have been better. The song ‘Bhar Do Jholi Meri’ makes a solid impact as it arrives at a crucial point and the track helps in heightening the emotions.The background score (Julius Packiam) is very good. The action (Sham Kaushal) is well choreographed. Rameshwar Bhagat’s editing is good.
‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ presents a balanced viewpoint on the anonymity between the two countries. The film does not glorify or vilify any of the two countries and refrains from taking sides. The plot is very convenient and dull of escapism and the solutions it provides one with are over simplistic. But, the message comes across effectively and one hopes the might of Salman Khan will help this well-intended film reach out to a large audience and help them realize the importance of basic goodness and humanity over religion and nationality.