Apart from its sheer authenticity and convincing portrayal of the life of legendary athlete Milkha Singh, this film connects with you right off the bat. It is deeply moving and, most of all makes you feel proud to be Indian. Take a bow, Milkha Singh! Take a bow, Farhan Akhtar!
The most crucial ingredient of any biopic is the ability of the actor and the director to make the characters as authentic and convincing as possible.
It is not easy to depict real life on the big screen and to also narrate a film in a way that entertains and hooks, especially a film that is 188 minutes long. Team Bhaag Milkha Bhaag gets full marks for executing the physicality of not only the characters but technically too, for the film’s authenticity.
While watching Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, you empathise fully with the real Milkha Singh – you sympathise with him, laugh with him and feel his pain. Kudos to the production department for the costumes, sets and detailing, which makes the film a treat to watch. Not to mention the obvious Farhan Akhtar, who essays the character of Milkha Singh with supreme accuracy, aplomb and total conviction.
Young Milkha Singh (Jabtej Singh) lives with his family in Punjab in the pre-Independence era. But his world is turned topsy-turvy during Partition. Little Milkha is tormented when his family is killed during the riots but reunites with his sister (Divya Dutta) in the Delhi refugee camps. Due to the painful circumstances, he does illegal odd jobs to earn some money.
Cut to an all grown-up Milkha Singh (Farhan Akhtar). Milkha meets Beero (Sonam Kapoor) and falls in love with her. But due to his unstable life and unlawful jobs, he promises to set his life straight before marrying her. Milkha thus enrols in the Indian Army.
After he is recruited, Milkha signs up for the athlete programme solely out of gluttony for milk and eggs. There he meets his Guruji (Pavan Malhotra), who notices Milkha’s gift for running and trains him for the National Games. How Milkha goes about his life and how he becomes ‘The Flying Sikh’ forms the crux of the film.
The emotional scenes between Milkha and his coach, and Milkha and his sister are beautifully captured. The first half of the film proceeds at a snail’s pace and it’s the last 45 minutes of the story that impress most. The treatment of the subject is what makes this film click. The way Milkha’s childhood is portrayed is superbly constructed and the way his training is narrated is marvellously conveyed.
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra does a terrific job with every single frame. His knack for extreme detailing will not go unnoticed. Special mention to the writer of the film Prasoon Joshi, a first-time writer who drafts a striking tale. He is an established lyricist and dialogue writer but here he shines with the potential of a screenwriter as well.
The races are captured very well, and thanks to high-end production values, the stadiums looks very impressive. The scenes that focus on Army areas and the Army set-up are impressive. The first half of the film does tend to drag but the second half is a treat to watch. Cinematography by Binod Pradhan and editing by PS Bharathi is good. Both, background music and music are remarkable and lift the narration.
Performance-wise, Farhan Akhtar is dynamic as Milkha Singh. He is outstanding and delivers a superlative performance. No other actor could have pulled off this character with as much conviction. An award-winning performance for sure! Although Sonam Kapoor doesn’t have a substantial role, she excels. Divya Dutta is a phenomenal actor and portrays her role with utter ease. She is outstanding in the scene where Farhan Akhtar makes her wear his coat.
Yograj Singh is superb. Pavan Malhotra, who plays Akhtar’s coach, delivers a powerful act. Prakash Raj is marvellous. It is a pleasure to see him in a role that is substantially different from those in other Hindi films. Jabtej Singh is adorable. Dalip Tahil as Jawahar Lal Nehru does justice to his part. Others, from Art Malik to Rebecca Breeds and Meesha Shafi support well. The actors who play Army jawans with Akhtar are fantastic. The rest of the cast provide adequate support.
Verdict: A must-watch for every movie-goer. Despite the fact that this was an expensive film to make, its content has the potential to recover the investment and also make a profit for its investors.