Director: Anil Sharma
Actors: Salman Khan, Zarine, Mithun Chakroborty
Little has been publicly spoken of their split, or their working relationship. Yet, between the two – Salim and Javed, creators of the ‘70s ‘Angry Young Man’, best-known screenwriters in Bollywood’s history – it is said, Salim Khan was a master scenarist. Javed, supposedly, wrote the wonderful lines. Salim dreamt up the massiveness of the movie. Javed took care of the intimacy of moments.
Salman Khan is screenwriter Salim’s eldest son. He’s also the credited writer of this film. You can instantly tell where Salman gets his ‘ginormous’ sense of cinematic grandeur from.
It’s all big game in here. Warring armies, even with computer-generated images, stretch out into miles. Palaces, and their Renaissance frescos, capture entirely the 70 mm screen. The horse conveniently chases a running train as the hero catches for the first time his heroine’s eyes. Those silent eyes coincidentally meet again: at a London college, at a posh party.... Of course the two are in love. Theirs is a romance between a princess and a commoner, which exponentially degenerates later into an unspoken, inexplicable love between a girl and a warrior who’s murdered her brother, is thirsty for her father’s blood. The dad (Jackie Shroff) wears a golden hand, not very different from Sir Juda in Himesh’s Karz!
The hero belongs to some barbaric tribe called Pindari that lost its land to a British conspiracy. The tribe would like its land back. They believe educating one of them to the British ways in London might help them win this war. This Veer (Salman) wanders the streets of London, with his sidekick (Sohail, as usual, playing the fool). The sidekick’s struck by the architecture of the Empire. “Even our makbaras (tombs) look better,” the hero shoots back. “Haven't you seen Taj Mahal?” He later attributes the filth and general lack of hygiene in India (once “sone ki chidiya”) to the British as well. Racist goras assert to the public the white man’s civilising mission. Veer decodes in detail the divide and rule policy of our colonial masters.
Jingoism is complete. As it should be. Except, we’re not sure who it’s directed against. This isn’t the natives’ war in a freedom struggle. It’s a random, manic hand-combat against a random princely state, where Salamander snatches out live flesh, breaks sword from its middle. The year is 1920, a little dated for the weaponry.
Bollywood itself officially split into two in the late ‘90s. Bhojpuri and other regional cinema replaced the NRI / multiplex movies in small-town theatres. *Wanted*, the Salman hit (last year) proved there was much still to be made if Mumbai's filmmakers merely kept SEC C audiences of a semi-urban North India satisfied. They prefer their films about honour before self, to be simple and spoon-fed.
In that sense, this apparent period film owes its origins less to the genre Hollywood movies. It belongs more to Bollywood of back in the day: a song designated for smokers every few minutes; crispness, hardly a narrative virtue; three hours, the accepted clock-time. And yet in trying so hard to win acclaim and scale, the film goes all over the place - *Gladiator, Troy, Braveheart* - complicating matters for its easy viewers.
Mithun, Salamander’s father, finally walks into the climax. He takes on his son. The two battle it out over a word they’ve given, so they must keep. I could’ve sensed an ovation. Except it seemed too late. The audiences may have left royally puzzled by now. I can't figure out what this film was about either. Get me a quick and dirty 'Baap Ka Badla' any Friday!