Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Low on IQ but fun nevertheless

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is not exactly what you would call an Eid feast for hungry Salman Khan fans. Given the paltry number of fights (he gets ticklish every time he wrestles) and shirtless scenes, this is hardly a Dabangg Khan film. Imagine all the testosterone that is pumped into a typical Salman movie. Now, switch that with oestrogen and you get Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

Salman plays a dim-witted simpleton named Pawan/Bajrangi, who never lies because he’s a devout bhakt of Hanuman. He's a vegetarian, and the son of an RSS member; he even bows down in reverence whenever he sees a monkey. His only superpower in this film is his outdated idea of honesty and child-like innocence. When a lost mute girl comes into his company, he assumes she’s a Brahmin… simply because she’s fair.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan
Genre: Drama
Director: Kabir Khan
Cast: Salman Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kareena Kapoor
Storyline: A devout Hanuman bhakt vows to take a lost Pakistani girl back home

It is only when he sees the little girl kiss a television screen after watching Shahid Afridi (she’s named Shahida after the player) clobber a six off Ashwin does he realise she’s a Pakistani. He vows to take her back home to her parents in Pakistan, though he doesn’t have a passport. Where’s the melodrama in travelling with all the requisite paperwork?

What follows is a road movie where the dangerously honest Bajrangi (he begs for permission to illegally cross over to Pakistan on the border) goes beyond enemy lines to take Shahida back home. Parallels can be drawn with the director’s own Kabul Express, and the more recent Highway. Like the latter, Bajrangi Bhaijaan too is the story of a girl finding home in the arms of a stranger.

When they enter Pakistan, they’re joined by Chand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Pakistani stringer. Nawazuddin is brilliant yet again and holds the film together in the second half. The scenes that have the three travelling together with Salman in a bhurka are hilarious. It is also in these parts that the director manages to portray the film’s emotional ambitions with great subtlety.

But subtlety, naturally, isn’t an adjective one can use too many times while describing a Salman film. This one too is filled with sudden tonal shifts that are written specifically to get your tear ducts working overtime. There’s a disturbing scene where the little girl is taken to be sold to a brothel by a wily travel agent, a painful stretch where the powers of social media are (yet again) used to win justice for the silenced. In another scene, our helpless hero is beaten to pulp during interrogation.

Despite these problems, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a still a superior fare compared to Salman’s recent outings. It’s heartening to see the makers cast a little girl in such a film instead of conveniently opting for a heroine. If you’re a sucker for melodrama, this film is a guilt-free pleasure that’s far more rewarding than any work that the star has done in the post-Prabhu Deva era.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 1:33:29 PM |

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