This was probably the first time I took so long to watch a movie I was looking forward to, because of all the criticism and the frightening runtime. But this was also the first time I was genuinely surprised at all the backlash a movie so lovely has received.
Because #BhaagMilkhaBhaag is a lovely film. Yes, it’s 30 minutes too long, there are places it gets too jarring or melodramatic or jingoistic, the background music at times leads you on, Farhan Akhtar’s Punjabi isn’t upto the mark, Dilip Tahil and Jograj Singh are very average in their roles, it seems that Milkha Singh himself has edited the film (which is to say it’s not been edited at all), yada yada yadaa…. but the truth is, at its core, there’s something very genuine about BMB. Not every film needs to be measured against the barometer of cinematic and technical excellence, some films can just be emotionally invigorating, and that needs to be enough, really.
I know that many have found the film to be emotionally manipulative but the fact is even with its melodrama, the film cannot possibly represent more than a small percentage of the trauma and heart-wrenching journey that Milkha Singh went through in his actual life. If even a few sequences about the life of this great, great man touched us, it’s unfathomable to imagine the horrors he must’ve faced and the trials he must’ve gone through to become the legend he did.
And even in pure cinematic terms, it’s mind-boggling to see the efforts Farhan Akhtar has put into the role; his physical transformation is a remarkable feat for any actor worth his salt, let alone an occasional one like him. Even the cinematography by Binod Pradhan is right up there with the best we’ve seen, and for all its worth, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra *knows* how to shoot his sports. And at the right points, the background music is stirring as fuck!
If anything, this is a movie with its heart at the right place and a valiant effort in showcasing the life of a true Indian legend, as well as the horrors that a generation not too long ago faced, to a generation that takes far too little time to ‘move on’. Admittedly, he fell in love with his film and the subject, but we really should thank Rakeysh Mehra for putting in the efforts to bring this rousing story to us, and respect the life and the legend – Milkha Singh – who’s inspired it, because he’s inspired us too, and hopefully, through this flawed but lovely piece of cinema, will continue inspiring those to come.
P.S. On a side note, it’s almost impossible to watch a ‘good’ film in an Indian theater now. Be it Ghanchakkar or Lootera, and especially in the case of BMB, the jeering and laughter in the auditorium during serious scenes is fucking annoying, if not continually distracting. I couldn’t believe how people managed to laugh at the scenes of the partition and even in the end, at the message by Milkha Singh. The lack of respect, in general, is a shameful legacy we are passing on, and it’s unbelievable how, as a culture, we have managed to become literate, but not educated.
Note: This post was first published on June 18, 2013
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