Bajrangi Bhaijaan (BB) is Salman Khan’s latest release on Eid this year. It has received a much expected bumper response at the box office and surprisingly a thumbs up from the critics this time. It is surprising enough because you do not expect a proper story-line in a Salman film and there is mere thrashing of goons and wooing women. I watched this movie not as a Salman fan but as a general movie goer who watches movies for entertainment. Now lets come to the fact of the article.
The protagonist in this movie is Mr. Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi, a devout bhakt of Bajrang Bali or Lord Hanuman, hence referred to as Bajrangi by his friends and relatives. He never lies, always speaks the truth, is a true brahmin and prays before every idol of Lord Hanuman he sees anywhere. He is forced to help a little girl of 6 years who is mute and is a Pakistani who happens to be separated from her mother accidentally while going back in the Samjhauta Express and she lands in Kurukshetra where she meets Bajrangi. As the story moves forward, Bajrangi figures out that the girl is mute, a Muslim and she is from Pakistan. He vows to take her back to Pakistan and re-unite her with her parents. He does not possess a passport, nor the girl has one, so they do not get any visa and there is no official means left by which he can take her back to Pakistan. So, he goes on foot, crosses the border from Rajasthan, where he is held up as he does not have any documents and is suspected to be an Indian spy. He never lies and seeks permission from the authorities to allow him to drop the child after which he would offer surrender if they feel he is a spy. Through thick and thin, this guy with the help of a journalist Chand Nawab played by Nawazuddin Siddique, unites the child with her family, but is held in custody by the police and army. He is beaten black and blue but cannot escape in any way. Nawab who coveres their journey uploads it on youtube where people pay heed to the story and the valiant effort by an Indian who comes to Pakistan risking his life just to help the mute child. This leads to popular support from both sides of the border and public demand that he be released. As he crosses the border, chants of Bajrangi Bhaijaan engulf the hills and the tears of joy revel everyone’s eyes.
The story has been presented in a beautiful manner with some brilliant acting by everyone including the little child and on feels her emotions as she comes on screen. Salman’s character is that of a simple straight forward small town guy, who aims low in life, is a devout Bhakt, about to get married who is willing to take this risk just for the sake of that child as one shares her sentiments. The direction and screenplay is brilliant accompanied by great dialogues and a much applauded climax wherein humanity prevails above the boundaries of nationalities and the differences in religion. This is a movie that will soon be made tax-free and is going to be an all out blockbuster.
On the other hand, this movie acts as another attempt by Salman, (after last year’s movie Kick, wherein he fights for the cause of cancer affected children) to clean his image in the eyes of public. He is making films with a social message, creating a character that is simple, down-to-earth, an Aam Aadmi who fights for a cause. Bollywood is not new to such an attempt. A lot of people believe that the Munnabhai Films were an attempt by Sanjay Dutt to clean his public image after a bitter past of his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai Blasts. In the month of May, Salman was convicted by a Mumbai Court and sentenced to 5 years in prison for rash, negligent and drunk driving mowing down 6 people on the footpath of a Mumbai suburb. He has also been convicted of hunting two black-bucks in Rajasthan in 1998 while shooting for a film. This takes us back to the point raised by the article- Is the film a means to show actual reform or simply a blockbuster by the Superstar. I leave the question open for your learned judgement.