Sultan…..An unexpectedly soft tale

Salman Khan is perhaps best known for …..well being Salman Khan!

In most of his films, he is the same, larger than life, goonda bashing, bad boy with good heart character. The spontaneous shirt tearing scene, the iconic one liner and the cracking fist punch that fells 10 bad guys in one go….

Take any movie and switch the Salman Khan character and you won’t even notice!

sultanHis heroine’s have gotten younger and younger and mostly meaningless in most his movies…they are shimmying backdrops for the item songs or dance numbers that usually end up top of chart!

I reluctantly watched Sultan, unusually for me, many weeks after its release and that too on an Ipad!

The name was not inspiring, I resigned to watching the usual hero worship from the director……

I am a sucker for son of the soil movies and love when they depict the hinterland- the dusty backdrops of UP, Bihar and Haryana, give me those any day over the city slicker movies and car chases!

So from the first scenes of the village fair, the streamers, dust and noise & most importantly the typically Haryanvi prize of 15 Kg Paras ghee, I was impressed!

Salman underplays his star power- which is refreshing and the lower middle class outfits, a less than 3 star house all add authenticity to the character.
The falling for Anushka is also done well and her non simpering, matter of fact manner with him is real. Women usually don’t go around playing fake anger at unwanted attention, while secretly wanting to make out with losers. Her directness is in sync with her character and stays true the film.

Salman’s snapping out of his comfort, realising his affection alone is not enough for a woman, he needs to “be” someone is a departure from traditional Bollywood too- he does stand in the rain all night to win his girls’ love (Tezaab anyone?) and nor does he  break into soulful songs and strategically place himself in the path of the girl.

While a 3 month training to get to state champion ships is a bit far fetched, one can allow the poetic licence to the director.

It is also good to see that both Sultan & Aarfa go for their dreams, winning wrestling championships together.

The 2nd half, where he becomes arrogant is natural and the killer line, when he tells Aarfa that even she did not want him when he was nothing was brilliant.
Aarfa’s mental anguish at losing her opportunity to go for Olympic Gold and then losing her baby is phenomenally underplayed, no histrionics or lengthy dialogues here, so glad to see that she does not beat her chest, tears running down and howling….


Sultan’s comeback into the ring, training by a guy who has fallen from grace, is typical of many movies so nothing new, but what is good that the promoter of the new Pro league is not a money grubby capitalist, but a guy with heart and one with a genuine interest in both the sport and player.

That our hero would first get beaten and then rise to win was foregone and it is done with minimal drama and blood & tears.

Aarfa’s re-entry into Sultan’s life is done with minimum fuss and what I was most thankful for is that there was no episode of Aarfa coming back into Sultan’s life and finding him entirely innocently with a leggy blonde and he then has to grovel his way back- many thanks to Ali Abbas Zafar for resisting temptation. Many thanks also for the absence of an “item” song.

Unlike many of the recent big blockbuster offerings, the absence of a villainous  character is refreshing. The struggle that the protagonists have are internal and there are no bad guys to beat up, corrupt politicians to out or disapproving parents to win over.

The narrative stays on course without meandering into side tales. The supporting characters do not have annoying mannerisms- another bonus and the most phenomenal feature of all- the religion of the lead or other players is incidental.

It is neither highlighted nor hidden. We know they are Muslim, they go to the Dargah, but there are not long sequences of them beseeching the Almighty.
It reflects the reality in India everyday, people work with others everyday of the week without chest beating about who is worshiped.

Another pleasant visual is the relative natural look that both the lead characters keep, with Anushka’s make-up very natural and both of them very “normal clothes” from Anushka’s loose salwar kurta’s and Salman’s check shirt and half sleeve sweaters!

Some of the dialogues stuck with me- Sultan asks Aarfa if she realized that she had made the death of their new born all about herself. Did she forget, he too had lost a son? Salman’s delivery is seriously underplayed and that much more powerful because of it!

Aarfa tells Salman she wants people to realise that if they keep killing the girls, how will their sons have children? Again an almost non dramatic delivery, but the message is clear.

And the silent scene where Sultan sees his unfit flabby self in the mirror silently…..inspired direction from Ali Abbas!!

If we can suspend some of our belief of a 50 year old acting 30 and then 40, getting into shape and beating the crap out of giant professional fighters…Sultan is a good watch!

Rating: 3.5/5