Congrats Salman Bhai: ‘Sultan’ is 3 hours of machismo, bombastic patriotism and self-obsession
Dear Salman Bhai,
Kamaal karte ho pandeyji! What a film bhai, what a film! A movie about the underdog that’s starts with a quotation from the character itself! How poetic is that? The audience stuffed mouthfuls of popcorn, waiting for your entry, and what an entry it was. Your vast brawn silhouetted against the sun, the muscles bulging magnificently as you strode, like a bull into the arena. Machismo bhai, machismo, that’s what your film is about. As you flicked your moustache in slow motion and grinned, there was a collective surge of testosterone in the audience. You are the man, bhai. All brawn, rough around the edges, the songs choreographed around your thrusting crotch, the much younger attractive girl who you get, this film had everything true fans of your brand of cinema are looking for.
Also love the “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” touches. The Namaste gesture, the rural backdrop, the poor English, the whole underdog angle, a man with no goals who attempts the absurd and achieves the impossible. I mean you could have just called the film “Bajrangi Pehelwaan”, and we would have still lapped it up in glee.
I couldn’t help gaze at your inexplicably muscular body, before you even considered wrestling, as you and your body double kill time playing kite runner, and fixing dish antennas in homes of virile old men. But as often happens with great men, ambition often follows falling in love with a woman who is seemingly unattainable. Just seemingly because this is your film after all. Anushka Sharma as Aarfa is ambitious and hardworking, aspiring to win an Olympic gold as a female wrestler. But sadly, she is looking to only marry a wrestler, and since you don’t have any goals anyway it’s only fair that you decide to become one.
I mean how hard can it be? Others take years to master a sport but you Bhai, took just three. Three months condensed into three minutes of a song. Others compete for years to win in the big league, but Bhai you win the State championship as soon as you start wrestling. Realism, humility, and small stepping stones are for lojhers (losers) as you mouth in your ‘now you hear it, now you don’t’ Haryanvi accent. As a small digression, do I take it that you have forgiven SRK and patched up? Loved the little joke about blind women looking into his eyes and falling in love. Others might find it insensitive but not me. If you want sensitive or politically correct movies watch an Aamir Khan film, suckers!
It was unusual though to see your love interest actually have some aspiration apart from dancing in gratitude for being in the film. I was wading through unfamiliar territory. Perhaps you were too. Just when we thought that this film maybe be path breaking in its attempt at giving another character room to grow, you brought us back into familiar patriarchal territory. Just when we thought this was Aarfa’s story too, she is cleverly impregnated and moved out of the spotlight. You never even ask her if she wants to keep the child. I mean so what if the Olympics comes just once in four years. When she tells her father that you are her gold medal, the trophy husband, I was tearing up. I felt like giving her a gold medal for getting over her feminist spiel from 10 minutes earlier. Go slap cowdung cakes, woman. No one else can share Bhai’s glory or have a character arc here. Anant Sharma as your friend Govind, Randeep Hooda in a cameo, or even Amit Sadh as the beleaguered owner of the franchise, come close to stealing the show but are stopped short by your stardom, your inability to fail at anything and the director’s mission of keeping you larger than life.
The film was long, I won’t lie. Watching you in fight after fight, winning of course, your bombastic patriotism and humble disposition formed an interesting contrast. After three hours of watching you tackle men and counting your varying number of abs, I could ‘Dhobhi Pitchaad’ someone with ease. As you rightly say in the film, it gave me the ‘feels’. If I was having trouble, well that’s what the loud music is for. The chants comparing you to the only thing in between earth and God was charming. What’s better than two hours of self-obsession? Three.
All has to end well, as it always does for you. Dead blackbucks or men have never stood in your way. I am pretty sure that this film will make hundreds of crores. There is no doubt in my mind. Essays should be written analysing how you as your PR machinery have effectively suspended the disbelief of an entire nation. How in spite of your consistent commitment to crime, controversy and ruining careers, people worship and fear you in equal measure. Those who want you in jail, are sadly mistaken. That would only add to your persona, your stardom, your perceived victimisation. Congratulations on “Sultan”, Bhaijaan. Truly, you are invincible. As for wrestling the demons within, well that’s for other actors and films to do.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the author.