Ali Abbas Zafar made his debut as a writer and a director with ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’, a romantic comedy starring Katrina Kaif, Imran Khan, and Ali Zafar. Though his second film ‘Gunday’ was a period drama and set in a different zone altogether, he made it fairly evident that his sensibilities lay firmly entrenched in the grammar of commercial Hindi cinema. After delivering two successful films for Yash Raj Films, Zafar gets to make his third film with Salman Khan, one of the biggest leading actors of Hindi cinema at the moment. ‘Sultan’, like the last two films helmed by the director, is a commercial entertainer but has been set on a much bigger scale.
Pro Take Down, a sport event that has found fans all over the world, has failed to take off in India. This has adversely affected a lot of people, including Aakash Oberoi (Amit Sadh), who had invested in it and has now incurred huge losses. Aakash’s father (Parikshit Sahni) tells him that the event would succeed if it gets an Indian face. He asks Aakash to go to a village in Haryana and meet Sultan Ali Khan (Salman Khan) – a has-been star wrestler who has given up on the sport and is now grappling with the grief of separating from his wife Aarfa (Anushka Sharma). After meeting Sultan, Aakash realizes that Sultan is not interested in getting into the ring again. Aakash consults Govind, Sultan’s close friend and asks him as to how should he convince Sultan into participating in the event. In order to make Aakash understand the reasons behind Sultan’s self-imposed retirement, Govind gives him a lowdown on some major incidents that took place in Sultan’s life several years back.
Weaving a love story with a sports backdrop could result in a novel script. The initial reels of the film focus on both the protagonists and trace their journey as sportsmen as they fall in love and eventually get married. After that, the film resorts to familiar tropes used in sport-based films and we get to see Sultan achieving dizzying heights as a sportsperson, losing his way, and finally redeeming himself. While one might still digest the fact that Sultan transforms himself into a wrestler within a month’s time and beats several wrestlers who have given years of their life to their sport, the conflict that leads to the separation with his wife does not really seem convincing, at least in the way it has been depicted in the film.
Even though the basic story is full of clichés and does not offer much of a novelty, the screenplay is fairly well written and manages to camouflage some of the impuissance of the story. The film treads on an oft-repeated path but the drama has been handled very well by the director. The emotions and humour, for most of the part, come across very well. What also makes the film engaging is the fact that it does complete justice to the milieu it is set in; the dialect, set up and the characterizations are spots on and you actually feel that the characters belong to a village in Haryana. The music (Vishal and Shekhar) is highly melodious and they have been incorporated beautifully in the film.
Apart from directing the film, Ali Abbas Zafar has been credited with writing the story, screenplay, and dialogues of the film and one must say that he has managed to shoulder his responsibility as a writer and a director fairly well. The basic plot does not offer anything new to the audience but he mounts the film on a large scale and packs it with dollops of drama to make the narrative engaging. As an audience, you can guess what is going to happen next as the film moves forward but you would still want to unfold it on screen as the drama has been handled very well and comes across very well on the screen.
Salman Khan immerses himself completely into the role and for once, you feel that he has actually submitted himself to the vision of his director. His physical transformation is impressive but what really surprises one is the ease with which he performs some highly dramatic scenes. This is, undoubtedly, his best performance in a long time. One might argue that an actor of Anushka Sharma’s caliber deserved a better-written role but within a limited character graph, she makes her presence felt by showing her prowess in scenes that could be performed only by a seasoned actress. Amit Sadh plays a role that does not demand much but he lends a nice charm to the character and helps it stand out. Randeep Hooda is excellent in a role that has been billed as a special appearance. Anant Sharma, who plays the role of Govind, is an actor to watch out for.
‘Sultan’ has all the commercial ingredients that you look for in a Salman Khan starrer. The basic plot might come across as too simple but one must give credit to the director incorporating emotions, drama, humour, music, and action seamlessly into the narrative and making the film an engaging affair.