* This is a review of the movie. It is intended for people who might have already watched the movie and want to know what others think about it and for people who are interested in getting a better insight into a movie.
* This is not a preview or sneak peak. So please don’t take the decision of watching a movie based on a review. A two page review can never cover all the intricacies of 90 page script or its 2 hour screen adaptation.
* Please bear in mind that humongous amounts of effort, money and time go into the making of a feature film and deciding on not watching a movie based on one man’s views about it is a very bad idea – both for you as a person and the industry as a whole.
* I like butter chicken for the sweet smooth flavour, you might like it for the tinge of spice or the tender chicken or you might be a vegetarian and hate me for mentioning butter chicken all together. You get the point, right? Everyone watches a movie for different flavour. Watch the trailer, listen to the songs… if you like them then watch the movie. The last thing a review should do is prevent you from watching a movie!
The Review –
Coming to the review… well I chose to go with this totally uninspired, unimaginative and totally clichéd title because it somehow aptly represents the movie to me – uninspired storytelling, unimaginative usage of tools and clichéd focus points.
Let me back up a bit here… the prerelease reviews and hype for the film was really astounding. It made the movie seem like a super hit even before release. I have to admit, I was very excited about this flick just because I believed in the potential of the story and the people involved in the project. The story of Milkha Singh – the Flying Sikh, one of the most celebrated athletes of India, was undoubtedly a pot of untapped gold. It had immense potential – one could choose whatever he wanted to portray it as and still walk away with success and with such a pot at hand, and given the resources available, I believe the final product catered to the audience was nothing more than mediocre.
The movie opens with a great shot. The 1960 Olympics run. If I were to make a sports movie, that is exactly how I would start. The anticipation created by the camera and the sound were in super sync. The montage of his past self, appearing in his mind was the icing on the cake and bam! A perfect 10 for the start. But unfortunately, from there on the movie took a downward spiral with sparse flashes of brilliance.
The movie proceeds with a train journey where people head to Chandigarh to try and convince Milkha to run in Pakistan. Here is where most of the time in your eternally long movie goes so this is where I will spend most of the review. Milkha’s first coach in the army narrates the story of Milkha Singh. Points to pick in this –
Cinematography fail: level – not very harmful:
– I felt the cinematographer should have done a better job of getting it a 1960 look as it did not seem so 60 ish. It is very possible that a grainy or colour corrected look was ruled out to avoid the risk of creating overlapping images with the other flashback sequences in the movie.
Screenplay / Direction fail: level – hazardous/deadly:
– One fight I can have again and again with Indian filmmakers is the inappropriate timing and usage of songs. Songs are tools that are mostly used for entertainment and seldom used for pulling the story forward. A well placed song has the potential to narrate a 30 minute story in under 5 minutes. Unfortunately not many filmmakers use them that way. It should be made clear to the filmmakers that making songs as pure promotional content is better than having them interrupt the narrative. The first song, Havan Karenge, though is an entertaining one seems to start oddly, out of place but does push the story forward. Zinda is a better paced and placed one. But the biggest culprit for me was the song with Sonam. I think at that point, everyone in the cinema hall knew that heartbreak was awaiting Milkha but a song was forced just to increase the length of the film, increase my frustration and was not helping the story at all. Damn! I still get furious when I think about that. I believe it would have been a lot better without the song there.
– Another major fight I can have any day with our story tellers is the obnoxious attempt the storywriters make to reveal the entirety of the story in one go. Let me elaborate on this. In this movie, when the coach talks about Milkha , I think he mentions he knows Milkha since 1954. Given the timeline of the movie, he knows Milkha for 6 years, which is not very long. Even if he knew a lot about him, when he narrates Milkha‘s story to someone I would expect him to narrate things specific to only their interaction and not what Milkha Singh might have thought about his girlfriends or what Sonam Kapoor talked to her mother when Milkha threw her a ball, which in all honesty Milkha himself could not see or what Parizad would have felt looking at Milkha train in the rain. This is something that many Indian films take for granted. If A is talking to B about C, then A cannot talk about some D and E that C might have known at some point. You are getting paid to write this stuff dammit, put some more love into it! I would have really appreciated it if say, when the coach was narrating Milkha’s story, a cut scene of Milkha Singh thinking about his past memories was shown, with the coach’s voice as background. This would have made it feel like we are diving into the head of Milkha Singh rather than the coach narrating every minute aspect of his life. This, for me was by far the biggest fail in the movie.
– The high points are far too less and sparsely spaced out which killed what little emotional surge they brought to the film. One thing that really confused me about the movie was that the success points were shown as flashes without much significance. If the filmmaker really put in thought that his film was about the idea of putting in effort without fearing for failure or success, and that is why success was shown as an insignificant thing in the movie, I salute him for his clarity but if not, there was this huge risk where the audience who came to see a winner got 3 hours of struggle and defeat and 30 seconds of neatly composited images of him winning stuff.
Screenplay / Direction success: level – good:
– The 1940s sequences with little Milkha did really leave a mark on me. Visually good, neat storytelling and good acting. For me the standout was the scene where Milkha’s sister finds him in the refugee camp and the emotion that follows. That was an example of everything falling flat into place – a movie making marvel. It is for scenes like these that people should watch movies.
Action success: level – very good:
– I thought twice before putting a ‘very’ before the good. But the scene where Milkha slaps himslef played in my mind and the ‘very’ followed. There were scenes in the movie where Farhan’s acting skills stole the entire lime light. And that slapping scene was one such a scene. The best compliment I can think of is that it felt real. Slurry of fury, anger, sorrow and pain all coming together in his expressions and body language. Extraordinary!
– Two other scenes from this movie that will stay with me are the ones involving Divya Dutta ; one that I mentioned earleir, near the refugee camps and the other one when Milkha asks her to try on his India blazer and she finds her gold eariings in the pockets. Expressions were priceless at that point.
1. It is about an Indian Legend that every Indian should know about.
2. The acting was a huge plus
3. Zinda ho toh: entire song – audio + visuals.
1. Some major storytelling, direction flaws which luckily everyday audiences might not notice.
2. Too long, some major focus points are sparsely spaced and get lost in the length of the movie.
A good watch if you can stand the length of the movie but definitely not worth its current imdb rating of 8.7. One thing that makes this a better watch in the cinema halls was the audience. I can’t forget audience shouting “Maar Milkha Maar” when he slaps himself and the audience chanting his name during the last run!