It is an interesting story. It would be a gripping script. The flying Sikh has gone through enough adventure in his life to make for an interesting screenplay. The 13 important years of his life from 1947 to 1960, where he goes through this marvelous journey of being a 12-year-old forced to flee Pakistan after his parents are killed in a riot during Partition, to a rogue taken up to violence to a respected army soldier to being an extraordinary sportsman who won the affection of none other than the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Milkha Singh’s life makes for a fascinating story. But unfortunately what could have been a fast paced, laced with the pleasant smell of earth-kind of a story, turns into a meandering, indulgently long, and unnecessarily melodramatic in Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag'.
Farhan Akhtar plays the role of Milkha Singh, who fights all the odds in life to make a place for himself as the fastest running athlete of the country. Farhan’s dedication and sincerity towards the ‘role of a lifetime’ is more than evident on screen. With an awe-inspiring body that he built for this role (commendable considering that he is soon going to be touching 40), Farhan puts his sweat, blood and soul into this role.
But unfortunately, that doesn’t really translate into anything tangible on the screen. Not his fault. Not for a moment undermining his efforts, I would like to call this as a serious case of miscasting. Farhan’s body language and diction seemed too ‘posh’ to have been brought up in the rustic conditions that Milkha Singh was. In fact, the boy who played younger Milkha was far more believable. A tad unfair comparison maybe, but Irrfan’s effortlessly believable portrayal of 'Paan Singh Tomar' kept coming back to me.
Now for the good things. The perfect capturing with meticulous detailing of Pakistan and India of the pre and post partition era adds to the film. Some of the performances by actors like Pavan Malhotra (who plays Milkha’s coach) and Divya Dutta (who plays Milkha’s doting but helpless sister) are commendable. Pavan looks and breathes the part with the ease of a great actor. Divya’s acting strength is evident in that one scene when she gets re-united with her younger brother, Milkha.
Some of the scenes manage to stay with you, even after you leave the theatre. The climax is thrilling, but only if it hadn’t taken so long to reach there. And subtlety is an art, which still seems to be grossly underrated.