Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 12th July, 2013
Time : 188 minutes
Directors : Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Writer : Prasoon Joshi, based on the true life of Milkha Singh; Music : Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy
Starring : Farhan Akhtar, Pawan Malhotra, Divya Dutta, Yograj Singh, Sonam Kapoor, Art Malik, Prakash Raj, Rebecca Breeds, Meesha Shafi
Milkha Singh, one of our fastest / best athletes, specializing in the 400M, is renowned as much for his hits (World Record Holder, several championships including Asian Games, Commonwealth, World Track and Field) as for his misses (most notable being Rome Olympics, where he finished outside the podium). His life, based on the film, seems to have been one filled with tragedy, haunted by the ghost of Partition, the loss of his love and several other dramatic incidents. The fact that he overcame all to become a world-class athlete is a tribute to him and a lesson to all the rest of us on what is possible, if we so want it.
Am really glad Rakeysh / Prasoon decided to do a biopic about someone as aspirational as Milkha Singh instead of the usual gangsters, encounter specialists or even soft-porn stars chosen by Hindi films so far for real-life inspiration. However, I really wish the makers had chosen fewer incidents from his life, put them together in a more cohesive manner, both in terms of narrative and timing and kept the film more focused on his sporting deeds and how he achieved them. The ending is lovely, just wish we had got there quicker and with possibly less pathos.
Farhan Akhtar is very good in the title role. It’s a slightly uneven performance, some moments not quite there (possibly due to the script?) but overall he works, and works well, whether focused, intense and deadpan or smiling at some accomplishment. Pawan Malhotra, Yograj Singh and Divya Dutta are earnest and good in their respective character roles, positive influences on Milkha’s life. It was a delight to see Art Malik in the film, has lost none of his histrionic flair (remember him as the villain in True Lies?). Sonam is thankfully just a cameo. Rebecca and Meesha Shafi also catch the eye in their small roles. The music (too many songs, some forced) / background score is good without rising to brilliant heights – also felt that there was too much of an effort to milk the tragedies, wring tears, make us feel sad / cry...
If this film proved one thing, its that the same rules apply in athletics as in cricket – everything, every lapse is forgiven as long as you beat Pakistan. My kids were completely immersed in the film (they felt its length too) and came out all flushed, happy and excited. The upbeat, winning sequences worked. Wish the focus had been on the development of Milkha as an athlete (the new tricks he acquired, learnt, the way his training regimes changed) rather than the on his past. Would love to watch this film again, but only with a remote in my hand !