Bhaag Milka Bhaag (2013) – Review

BY RUBY CHINGU

ImageWARNING: THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ROMANTIC FILMS TO MAKE YOUR STOMACH FEELS BUTTERFLY-ISH, THEN PLEASE GO WATCH SOMETHING ELSE. IF YOU ARE SEEKING TO BE MASSIVELY INSPIRED, THOUGH, THIS FILM IS JUST FOR YOU.

RATING – 9/10 (… and I cried five times.)

Directed by -Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Starring – Farhan Akhtar

Plot – The story is inspired by a memoir written by Milkha Singh, a legendary Indian athlete in the 1950s and 1960s, and his daughter. It began with Milkha as a young low-ranking soldier, whose talent for running was noticed by a senior army sports coach, who then trained him to participate in national championship. With the help of the national coach, he polished his talent with lots of hard work and practice and was eventually qualified to participate in the Olympic games. Nevertheless, after a few distractions, he realized that in order to succeed, he must be fully focused in his athletic career with full discipline and avoid any romances coming his way.

On 1960, the Prime Minister of India, Jawarlal Nehru requested him to run in a friendly competition with Pakistan for diplomacy purposes. Haunted still by the memories of his childhood where his Sikh parents were killed by Muslims during the partition of India, he refused. He later agreed and visited his family’s hometown in Pakistan and tried to confront the bitter memories of his past. He won the friendly match against Pakistan and was nicknamed the Flying Sikh by then-Pakistan’s head of state, General Ayub Khan.

Review – What more is there to comment about a film that made me cry five times? That it’s good? No, that, my darling, is an understatement. First of all, I would like to comment on the storyline. It began during the adult years of Milkha in the army and slowly, as he tried to build his athletic career, the film goes back to the scenes of his childhood and adolescent years. The technique used kept us glued to the story. We were curious about the depth of Milkha’s resentment against competing in Pakistan.

ImageEven though he was born of humble background, the character, Milkha, in this film is shown to be a highly dedicated man once he knew what to do with his life. As a child, he was doted by his family who lived in a village that was located in Pakistan. After the partition, his father refused to leave for the love of his land. Milkha was there when it happened and ran to hide as instructed by his father. The image of murderers on horseback, wielding swords towards his village people would come to him occasionally, reminding him of his bloody past. He, then, barely twelve years old, escaped to India and lived with his elder sister. In order to earn money, he worked as a robber. He had a romantic fling during this period of his life but it ended with the girl married off to someone else. Nevertheless, he joined the army at first as a motivation to improve himself as a person for the girl’s sake. Even though the love affair ended badly, at least it led him to discover his true calling in life – running.

The main competition that Milkha had, as shown in this film, are not the other athletes BUT himself. As a sportsman, he could not care much about his competitors in the stadium. Instead, he was very critical of himself. When he failed to get any place during the 1956 Olympics, he slapped himself in the mirror repeatedly in self-blaming. In a way, Milkha is his own great enemy. Which is actually true. In competing with ourselves, we would also try to eradicate our bad qualities – laziness, lack of commitment, easily distracted etc etc. Instead of thinking of beating someone else, Milkha went to his coach and asked – “what’s the current record for 400 metres?” He, then, trained his ass off and attempted to beat that record. It is sportsmanship in its best portrayal.

ImageThe MAJOR element of the film, for me, is the aftermath effect of the Partition of India 1947. After the country was separated and the nation of Pakistan was created, more than two million people died due to many reasons – desperate circumstances, violent religious clashes and lack of survival needs.

ImageBeing killed by another human being for completely irrational reasons is the worst tragedy that could occur. Milkha’s village was slaughtered simply because they refused to convert to Muslims after the partition. Milkha was basically alone in this world, only a child when this happened. In a blink of an eye, his childhood was marred with blood, rage, violence and grief and the emotions stayed with him his whole life.

However, to see him not letting the emotions affect his performance, it is very inspiring. Instead of making excuses, he chose to move on and live for a worthy future than clutching towards the past. Not everyone can do such a thing – only a very determined person such capability.

I also enjoyed the music of the film very much. Like most Indian films, there are a lot of fusions between classical and modern music. The songs can be particularly inspiring and heartfelt. Some of them centred around the characterization of Milkha himself and accompanied his journey to conquer his weaknesses.

Farhan Akhtar as Milkha is superb! As I was watching the film, it did not cross my mind that the actor whose performance I’m watching is actually a renowned director/writer of films that focused mainly on the urban youth genre. The first time I read that Farhan played the character, I was shocked. I mean…. like seriously? Like… the director of Dil Chahta Hai and Don is the main actor in this film?? That did not sound right. However, God, what happened yaar – put on the turban and grow some sideburns, Farhan completely transforms himself into a Sikh lad named Milkha Singh. He is a wayyyyy better than I thought he is! Suddenly, I felt so guilty for being suspicious of him in the first place.

The moral of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is to overcome your past, live life with discipline, honour and dignity and strive for the best, never to give up on yourself. It tells a tale of a man with dedication and hard work. Now, that is somebody we can learn from no matter who or where we are.

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