179 Monday Musings: Bhag Milkha Bhag
It is difficult not to be moved by the story of the iconic Milkha Singh and despite cinematic excesses in the movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’(BMB) by the thoughtful Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, it is difficult to come out of the movie without being inspired, in small measure or large. You can treat this musing as a kind of movie review along with how the tale touched.
Partition continues to intrigue me. In story after story, where partition is the central character or in other stories where partition is like the subtext, hanging like a shadow, the bloodiest part of the subcontinent’s history has left individuals, families, communities and nations with memories. The angst and literary expression it has generated is rivalled only with the one generated by the holocaust. However it is clearly not been dissected with as many nuances and perspectives. I guess we are not as fearless and large hearted in dealing with our past and its demons. The impact of the partition on the impressionable young Milkha, despite its barbaric nature has been dealt with sensitivity. One would almost miss the humanity of the maulvi saving Milkha’s childhood friend, raising him as his own and getting him married as an alternative narrative to the mayhem and bloodshed. As the friend quips in a scene, ‘Those times were mad and not people’.
The story to finding his calling in running is beautifully told. Children of disasters must find their calling in something that takes their mind away from the pain, grief and squalor around them; otherwise these have a way of sucking human beings into a bottomless abyss. What better way of dealing with them but to drain your body of every ounce of energy, not leaving enough even to brood, complain and be depressed. Running is a release. Running to the level of having tested your limits, is liberating.
Farhan Akhtar’s chiselled body is a treat to watch. For most middle aged men with mild to more pronounced paunches, his physique is not only a treat to watch but also a matter of envy. He plays the physicality of the celebrated athlete with élan, but misses the plot in portraying the punjabiness of the character. He looks out of place in depicting the demeanour, diction and earthliness of a Punjabi youth of the 60’s. He betrays the Bandra-boy roots.
In my view, the crown goes to Divya dutta, who plays the elder sister to the young Milkha. There are two sequences that will make eyes moist. The one where she finds Milkha amongst the survivors and the other when Milkha returns from the army and makes her wear his India blazer. We are told through other accounts that the real Milkha Singh considers the influence of his elder sister as pivotal and through the movie it’s not difficult to see why. If I had the powers I would give Divya two things – this year’s best supporting actress award and second a big hug.
Finally a word on film making. I wish we make more biopics and more sports movies. Our cinematic record sucks on both these counts. Till that time, kudos to Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra for bringing us this story. I hope that it inspires yet another generation, not only to run but how to live.