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Mediocre Attempt Rehashing the Same Underdog Tale
Jun 21, 2018 11:02 AM 948 Views
(Updated Jun 21, 2018 11:07 AM)





This is a Salman film and I don't remember when was the last time I spent money to watch him on the big screen. After his grand comeback into the action genre through which he managed to reinvent himself and get chappar faad ke love and adulation from multiplex and single screen going audience all over the country, I watched Dabangg, Bodyguard and Ready.

Liked the first one, despised the second and by the time I watched the third, I decided never to watch another Salman film in theatre. I have watched bits and pieces of his other flicks whenever they air on TV, but they haven't done anything to change my notion of him. Yes, I am biased. Biased against the monstrosities they leash upon the viewers and I fail to understand the love the masses have for him.

Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime, we can now surf through full feature length available on these mediums and you can choose to watch a random flick if you have nothing better to do on a weekend. So I ended up watching Sultan much against my wishes, even though I was hoping I would be proved wrong with a half-decent film. It did business over 300 crores with decent trending. There should be some redeeming feature about it, shouldn't it?

Yes there were redeeming features. For one, I thought Salman shed the know-all image he is notorious for in both his onscreen and offscreen appearances and delivers a good performance. Acting-wise, he might not be great shakes, but he does well as a star with the right amount of body language for anyone who is playing a wrestler onscreen. In a few scenes, he is a hoot. In others, especially the initial comic portions of the film, he is sort of inconsistent by trying too hard to be funny and get the accent right.

Second, the music of the film should be played on loop. Jag Ghoomeya and Bulleya are soulful and melodious songs sung to perfection by the ever-dependable and awesome Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who has become a regular in Salman films. The other singer, Papon, does rather well in bringing the right emotion through Bulleya. The popular chartbuster "Baby ko bass pasand hai" is well picturised and the choreography gives Salman another signature step to be followed and imitated by his fans for years to come.

Now that the pros are done away with, let us focus on what really goes wrong with Salman. The biggest undoing of the film is the storyline, hinging on a wafer-thin plot that makes great pretensions to be a wondeful underdog story. It is not. In fact, if I were to look at it from the perspective of two halves separately, here's how it unfolds:

First half: Sultan falls for a girl, learns wrestling, trains himself hard, gets the girl and wins medals

Second half: Sultan wants to win back the girl, learns mixed martial arts, trains himself hard, gets the girl and wins a medal

Both halves essentially tell the same story: about the rise and rise of Sultan, which is another excuse to showcase the star power of Salman and please his fans through redundant and repetitive crowd pleasing moments.

It follows a single track screenplay with no surprises in store or effective characterizations. Anushka's track opens well, and her scene with Salman where she talks about her ambitions is a surprisingly good scene which gives a ray of hope to the cinemaholic for a fine clash of ideologies and confrontations. The confrontations and clashes come, but at the cost of giving up on the idealistic character of Anushka mid-way. The way her character transforms from a budding Olympic gold medalist to a sacrificing wife who prefers being home and taking care of her family once she discovers she is pregnant is too hard to believe. Even with Anushka's convincing act as the better half of Sultan, the portions seem cliched and insipid. Ultimately, it's all about Sultan as feared from the beginning, and a classic, done-to-death underdog story finally reaches its finale with familiar and boring tropes involved: a tough but empathetic trainer, violent, robotic opponents with no heart, and supportive and extremely loyal friends.

Ultimately, Sultan is a regular fare that is made to just further Salman's stardom. It dishes out masala through a safe, box-office friendly film that simply refuses to take any risks. This is still a fine watch compared to the drivel that is the bhai brand of cinema, but that is certainly not saying much.

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