Movie Review: BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN (2015) – Heartwarmingly Virtuous But Never Preachy Or Self Indulgent
Salman Khan movies aren’t always, let’s say, good. While the actor’s conventionally formulaic masala films resonate with the common man, thus making them commercial box office successes, critically they leave a lot to be desired. But the more controversial Khan has a better track record in roles where he is not pandering to the lowest common denominator. ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ is definitely one of Salman Khan’s better films, where he doesn’t talk down to the audience or exploit their emotions for an attempt at dramatics. The film directed by Kabir Khan is one of the better performances by Salman Khan and one of his better movies in recent times. Check out my Movie Review and stick around to let me know which your favourite Salman Khan role is.
The last Salman Khan movie ‘Kick‘, unnecessarily used the sympathies of a small girl in the latter half of the movie as a rather useless and pathetic plot point to motivate the main character. (More on that here.) ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ also has a small girl driving the plot of the movie, but it’s no where near as gratuitously done here.
Accidentally being left behind across the border in India during a trip from her home in Pakistan, 6 year old Munni (Harshaali Malhotra) is a mute girl who is stranded without her family. Chancing across Paavan (Salman Khan), lovingly referred to as Bajrangi by locals due to his devotion to the Hindu demi-God Bajrang Bali, (Hanuman), Munni, through her innocent childlike recognition of someone’s character, follows him around until he reluctantly takes it upon himself to help her find her family. The confict arises when the strict religious Hindu Brahmin Paavan, realizes that he’s been harboring a Muslim Pakistani, and that he will have to trek to Pakistan to bring her home.
Despite this straight forward approach, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ has an excellent script with many layers that doesn’t portray the main character, Bajrangi, as the typical Bollywood hero; imbibed with virtues and morals that are unrealistically larger than life. The uncharacteristic values that he does hold dear, (like always being honest, even if its to his own detriment) are attributed to his almost borderline fanatic religious beliefs, something used with hilarious results throughout the story. Like explaining in details to the police and Border Patrol how he sneaked into Pakistan illegally, simply because they asked, and his beliefs prevent him from ever lying or doing anything on the sly. Paavan also isn’t shown to help the little girl simply because he is expected to as the hero, there are enough obstacles and complexities that eventually lead him to taking on the responsibility for himself.
The story of the movie excels at setting up just the right amount of obstacles, solutions and heartlifting moments without them being overly trite or forced. The performances accentuate this with Salman Khan playing the straight character, the one who is simple minded and innocent, something that he plays to greater success than his extravagant hero archetypes. The break out star is obviously the little girl, Harhshaali, as she is able to express much through out the film, without ever even speaking. Kareena Kapoor Khan is satisfactory in her role of very minimal significance to the movie. It’s still a wonder why the actress chose such an insignificant role in the movie, given her veteran status, and ability to demand more meatier roles from the industry. The story does benefit though from the under playing of the obligatory Bollywod love story, and keeping the focus on Paavan and Munni. Nawazuddin Siddiqui joins Paavan’s quest to reunite Munni with her family in Pakistan, as a struggling reporter. Siddiqui and Khan have great chemistry for the latter half of the movie, and one wishes they are featured in more films as protagonists together. If there is any complaint from ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ it’s that Siddiqui’s character wasn’t introduced earlier in the film.
‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ deals with some pretty obvious religious tensions between Hindu & Muslim, as well as India & Pakistan relations. While the more earlier distinctions are done with humorous effect, the 3rd act of the movie gets a little serious. The brilliance of the screenplay also lies in a subtle subplot that runs parallel to the main story; the growth of Paavan’s character, an everyday Hindu, and his natrual progression into respecting a religion other than his own. The morals are subtle and never preached, and the character growth is never pointed out in the movie itself, but an internal growth that the audience has to discover on their own, along with the character.
Kabir Khan directed ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ is one of the better movies of the year; a fun and enjoyable movie that provides enough laughs and emotional character drama to keep everyone engaged. The film is never dragging in momentum and is the perfect family film.