The much-awaited Eid release, Bharat, starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, is finally out and has been doing great business at the box office. The reports are fairly positive, though a section of audience hasn’t liked it. But even the harshest critics of Bharat have one thing to say – the pre-climax of the film, the India-Pakistan angle, is beautifully and very nicely treated by director Ali Abbas Zafar.
Bharat is the story of a man (Salman Khan) who has lived an extraordinary life. He has dabbled in circus, oil fields in the Middle East, cargo ships and also a Kirana store in old Delhi. But his childhood has been traumatic as he and his family were staying in Mirpur near Lahore and during the Partition, they had to flee to the Indian side. Unfortunately, Bharat’s father (Jackie Shroff) and sister Gudiya failed to make it. In the pre-climax, Bharat’s live-in partner Kumud (Katrina Kaif) working for Zee TV floats a new venture titled ‘Mere Apne’ in which a makeshift television studio is set up on the border of either side of India and Pakistan. Whoever has lost their loved one in the Partition madness is asked to come forward with the details with the hope that someone might find their long-lost family member or friend. Bharat obviously comes forward to find his father. Hundreds of others also make a beeline towards Attari and Wagah and a few of them do succeed in reuniting with their sons and daughters. Some of these scenes are extremely touching, leaving viewers teary-eyed. But the best is reserved when Bharat finds his long-lost sister (Tabu) unexpectedly and the reunion is seen to be believed. The film goes on some another level in this said sequence.
The relationship between India and Pakistan has always been peculiar. There’s hate of course but there’s also fondness for each other’s film stars, singers, films, TV shows, culture, food etc. This bond sadly deteriorates during every major terrorist attack. In recent times, it happened with the Uri attack in September 2016. When things got a bit better, an attack took place on CRPF soldiers in Pulwama in February 2019. Once again, Pakistan began to be viewed as a ‘dushman desh’ even more. There have been sections of people in both countries who have strived for a dialogue and have stressed that the terrorist attacks are orchestrated by the Pakistani establishment and not by the citizens. Both are separate elements and hence, cultural exchange between the two countries shouldn’t be affected. But this ‘Aman Ki Asha’ brigade is always silenced during such sensitive times. And this can sometimes mar the prospects of a film as well, especially if it attempts to bridge the gap.
Bharat is directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and his last film Tiger Zinda Hai also had an India-Pakistan film. In this espionage action flick, which also starred Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, India’s RAW and Pakistan’s ISI conduct a joint operation to rescue 44 nurses stuck in ISC (fictional representation of ISIS) territory. Though Tiger Zinda Hai was enjoyed by the viewers thoroughly, there were many who were offended by the film. They protested against the depiction of ‘helpful’ Pakistani agents and felt that RAW and ISI collaborating together is laughable.
With Bharat, however, these Tiger Zinda Hai critics have no qualms. After all, Ali Abbas Zafar doesn’t make the whole thing political. He focuses on the human aspect and how both sides suffered during the Partition. There’s no jingoism or biasedness involved. It’s depicted in a fair manner. And it’s not a balancing act as such. It’s just quite right as per the film’s plot and seems totally convincing.
Not just Partition, Bharat has many other sequences that could have gone wrong but it doesn’t. In one funny sequence, Bharat’s sister is shown to have a crush on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister and someone who is seen as a villain of Indian History since few years by some. But his depiction is sweet and again, the political aspect is ignored. And in a surprising scene in the second half, Manmohan Singh is described as a bigger superstar of the 90s than Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar, for bringing in the era of liberalisation, privatization and globalization! For those on the other side of the spectrum, the hyper nationalists, too had their share of clap-worthy scenes. In an important sequence of the first half, Bharat sings the National Anthem and ends it with the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan. Though it seemed a bit forced, the reactions in many cinemas have been great for this scene. Viewers promptly got up in respect for the National Anthem and even roared the slogan in unison.
In today’s times, when emotions run high and smallest mistake can get you trolled, one has to give it to the makers of Bharat for delving into these sensitive topics and coming out with flying colours. Kudos and here’s to many more such balanced and touching films!