Like every Salman Khan film, Sultan releases with a lot of fanfare and expectations. While most of the Salman Khan starers are exactly the same sans a few rare gems like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Veergati, Sultan is probably one of his most emotionally charged and crowd pleasing films of recent times. For once Salman Khan is not Salman Khan in a film and becomes Sultan, the rugged wrestler from Haryana. The film has it’s heart in the right place and Salman’s spirited performance ensures that even the skeptics find it difficult to take apart this film. There is a lot of action in this film but at heart it is a love story. What propels the love story is not only an effective chemistry between Salman and Anushka but also the fact that he has a lot at stake everytime he gets in the ring and is primarily fighting for his love most of the time.
The story revolves around a simple guy Sultan who falls in love with a girl Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) after a chance encounter. After the necessary wooing and routine songs and dances, Sultan must face the bitter truth when she, an aspiring wrestler, takes him apart by calling him a looser who has no drive or goal in life. Sultan takes her insults to heart and sets on a path to become a world champion wrestler. He achieves his goal and wins her love. Aarfa’s career takes wings too and the two are selected to take part in the Olympics. Its here that something happens which doesn’t let Aarfa compete and she wrests her dreams on Sultan. Sultan wins but comes back a changed man. No longer is he humble or for that matter caring. Soon disaster strikes and Sultan’s decision to give his career priority over one and all results in him losing the love of his life and his world comes crumbling down.
He gives up wrestling and settles into a subdued existence. However he makes it a point to have a glimpse of his wife every day in front of the mosque even though she walks right past him without even looking. Years pass and one day luck smiles back on Sultan when he gets another opportunity at redemption when a fast fading Mixed Martial Art’s tournament becomes his arena to flexes those muscles again and quip public interest in the tournament that is losing its shine. He is brought in by the tournament organizers as a means to connect with the Indian masses who were otherwise turning away from the show that had only foreigners. Sultan now has to fight his inner demons as well as a bulging tummy to make amends for his past mistakes and set his life right.
As I mentioned before the film is an absolute crowd pleaser. There is enough action, enough drama and enough emotions to keep you interested for the humongous three hour long duration. I noticed that while most films have one training session, Sultan has two very well-choreographed training sessions that to of different types. While most sports films are about a single sport, this is about two very popular sports, wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA). The first half of the film concentrates on the wrestling with most of the action concentrated on the dusty and rugged terrains of Haryana. Post interval the mood changes and so does the sport with lots of glitzy and glamorous visuals involving MMA as Sultan shifts base to Delhi. The director ensures that the visual style and palate changes with the setting and even though it is noticeable, it is extremely well done and welcomed.
The story is meaty and has a lot happening which helps you stay focused throughout the rather long runtime. Sans the song and dance routines at two junctures which felt totally out of place, the film does remain on track. I felt that they could have done away with these two songs. It would have made the film tighter and more absorbing. The wrestling action is toned down to match Salman’s capabilities and a lot many body doubles are used which are noticeable at points. This I felt was a stickler but the manner in which Salman carries himself throughout the film neutralizes the damages caused by these lapses. The same can be said about the MMA action. Another noticeable problem with the MMA act was the absence of any noticeable or threatening villain. None of the fighters including the one in the finale felt threatening enough for Salman. This really brought down the thrills of the action sequences and resulted in the audiences sitting comfortably in their seats which should not be the case in these kinds of sequences. The stunt choreography was also done to match Salman’s capabilities and at many junctures it lacked the physicality that it should have had.
But the good news is that Sultan is not about action alone. As I mentioned before it is a love story at heart and that is where it scores heavily. I just loved the chemistry between Salman and Anushka. Their bond is shown beautifully without any physicality which is a rarity these days. Both their acts assume even more strength post their breakup. Salman always does well in brooding acts and the second half of this film offers him the chance to do just that. He obliges with all his might. While the first half would service those fans who are here for comedy and the chirpy Salman act, the second half sees his act turn into a grumpy and somewhat bent semi-old man. He plays his age for the first time, I guess, in many many years and he looks great in his act. He also makes it a point to take a dig at his own age at as many junctures as possible and it brings smiles on your faces.
For all those who are going in to watching him without his shirt will be mighty pleased. He shows two very different types of body structure for the wrestling and MMA and they both work. CGI or no CGI he looks great here. May be it would be best for him to play his own age now. Anushka has a restrained performance and she exudes confidence. It is not easy to hold your own in front of a man like Salman but she more than matches him, scene for scene. I really liked Amit Sadh’s act. He is a good actor who hasn’t got his due till date. Randeep Hooda has a smallish role but does enough to garner attention.
Sultan is exactly what we want it to be. Its loud, it’s energetic, it dramatic, it’s full of action and it’s entertaining as hell. It has the merit to hold on to you and even make you re-watch it. Anushka and Salman’s spirited act catapults it to a higher level than I had expected of it. Most importantly, the film knows how to extracts the audiences’ cheer and what to give them to extract their emotions. It does so with élan and ensures that you have a roaring time at the theaters. Sultan sure is this year’s “idi” for one and all.
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)