'Tum thode self-obsessed nahin ho?," Kumud (Katrina Kaif) takes a dig at Bharat (Salman Khan) and it's such conversations with a little hint of tease between the leading pair which brings a whiff of freshness in Ali Abbas Zafar's narrative.
The filmmaker's latest directorial begins on a rather unusual note. You get to see Salman as a 70 year-old man exclaiming, "Jitne safed baal mere sar aur daadhi mein hain, usse kahin jyaada rangeen meri zindagi rahi hain." And yes, the man does stay true to his words!
To begin with, we are drawn into Bharat's life as a kid. The 1947 Indo-Pak partition turns his life upside down when his father, a railway station master and his sister get separated from them.
As a promise to his father, Bharat takes it upon himself to look after his mother and his siblings hoping that their family would reunite someday. Soon, he befriends an orphan Vilayati Khan (Sunil Grover) and the two become as thick as thieves.
To make their both ends meet, Bharat and Vilayati take up risky jobs which include working in a circus, in the old mines in the Middle East and then a stint in the Merchant Navy. Bharat also fells in love with a feisty girl Kumud (Katrina Kaif) who wears her heart on her sleeve.
The film revolves around Bharat's journey along with that of the nation in a span of over six decades. Ali perfectly uses the iconic Indian historic moments like Jawaharlal Nehru's demise, India's 1983 World Cup Win and Shahrukh Khan's era in Bollywood as a time-frame device in his story-telling.
Bharat is heavily inspired by the Korean film, 'Ode To My Father' and director Ali Abbas Zafar quite effectively adapts it for the Indian palette. He ticks all the boxes in the checklist when it comes to pleasing the Indian audience. Romance, action, patriotism, humour and emotions; he's got it all in right proportions. Be it infusing sentiments in a moving scene or giving us heart-thumping moments, Ali Abbas Zafar's deft direction is on point in Bharat.
On the flip side, a little trimming in the second half would have made the journey even more enjoyable. Also, a scene or two in the film looks a bit forced which could have been easily avoided.
Speaking about performances, Salman Khan delivers one of his best performances in his recent times. The actor breathes life into Ali's layered writing. You see him serenading his lady love in the midst of the desert and you also get to see him as an old man bonding with his grandchildren. The actor portrays both the facets of life quite convincingly and tugs your heartstring.
Katrina Kaif is a surprise package of the film. As Kumud, she shares an equally important journey with Salman's Bharat. Their chemistry brings its own charm on screen. Kudos to Ali for writing a female character who is as equal as her male counterpart and gets many 'shining' moments of her own.
Not to forget, Salman and Katrina's fun banter leaves you asking for more.
Sunil Grover as Salman's pal and confidante gets a meaty role and leaves a lasting impression. Every time he shares the screen with Salman, he does manage to hold your attention despite the presence of the superstar.
Disha Patani pulls off a good act in her limited screen time and so does Tabu.
Jackie Shroff's scenes with Salman Khan are quite powerful and leave you with a lump in the throat. Nora Fatehi looks gorgeous in every frame but doesn't get time to show much of her acting chops.
Unfortunately, with too many time leaps and plot twists, the makers fail to do justice to the characters played by Sonali Kulkarni, Kumud Mishra, Shashank Arora.
Marcin Laskawiec's cinematography is top-notch. Rameshwar Bhagat's editing could have been a little more tauter.
In the music department, Slow Motion, Aithey Aa and Zinda stand out among all the tracks. Julius Pickiam's background score goes well with the narrative.
'Des logon se banta hain aur logon ki pehchaan unke parivaar se hoti hai', Ali Abbas Zafar paints this thought-provoking message with able strokes on his canvas. 'A line may divide a nation but the heart still beats as one,' and this Salman-Katrina starrer aptly depicts this on the big screen. I am going with 3.5 stars.