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MOVIE - Bajrangi Bhaijaan

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Bajrangi Bhaijaan runs with this wafer-thin premise with such unbridled enthusiasm and vigour that you might be forgiven for wondering if the future of the universe hinged on it. But even then, strictly from the perspective of Salman Khan’s core constituency, Bajrangi Bhaijaan might seem a touch tame.

The blustery superstar goes missing in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, as do his signature punchlines. It is, clearly, a calculated risk, a bid to reinvent a successful screen persona that might have outlived its utility in the light of the ageing actor’s off-screen troubles.

Salman plays a Hanuman-fearing, truth-loving straight-arrow bloke from

Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh who breaks neither the law nor bones. Main Bajrangbali ka bhakt hoon, koi kaam chori chheepe nahin karta, he says. So, he does not get into any street fights, spouts no explosive lines and does not take off his shirt. What a bore! But, then, he is no longer a mere mortal in policeman’s clothing cleansing a neighbourhood. He is now a crusader for truth and love and knows no boundaries. Like the monkey-god he swears by, he can leap over any gulf of mind and land.

Bajrangi loses his cool only on two occasions – once when he has to rescue the girl in his charge from the clutches of a human trafficker in Delhi and then in a Pakistani police outpost. Of course, what Bajrangi Bhaijaan seeks to communicate is laudable in the current climate of distrust. Wish it hadn’t made such heavy weather of the well-meaning exercise. The India-Pakistan border obviously plays a pivotal role in Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

The screenplay traverses the entire distance from Wagah-Attari to Rajasthan, and from there to Kashmir, where the drama culminates on an implausibly preachy and screechy note. Forbidding fences and imposing iron gates loom into view every now and then. At one point of the film, the audience is told that the wires along the border have 440 volt running through them. So, that is the measure of the protagonist’s heroic act of escorting a mute Pakistani girl back to her village up in the mountains on the other side of the line of control.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan opens in a Pakistani village. A pregnant woman, wife of an ex-army man, is among a group watching an India-Pak one-dayer on a community television set.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a supercharged cross-border drama that goes all out – and then some – in delivering its message of subcontinental peace. Director Kabir Khan pulls out an old chestnut – the theme of humanity trumping a history of bitterness.

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