With his back facing us, he struts out of the dark alley to the ring like a celestial being, little streaks of sunlight pouring from the shafts above in quantity just enough to fashion the contours of his silhouette with gold dust as the chant in the background goes-“Khoon mein tere Mitti, Mitti mein tera Khoon; Upar Allah, Neeche Dharti; Beech mein tera Junoon“.
The crowds in the movie become delirious as Sultan makes a grand entrance,as the crowd in the theatre goes berserk at the first sight of Salman. Salman’s playing his favourite alter ego- that of a man child with a magnetic charm for the infinite time to the same effect; this time he’s called Sultan.
A quintessential Bhai movie is nothing but an elaborate vanity exercise comprising of-catchy numbers, quirky signature steps and fourth wall breaking sequences with iconic lines when Bhai is done breaking some bones. Sultan does all this and much more. It gives us a protagonist who is not saddled with the task of catering to the legion of fans of the star alone. He is a fallible person, who crumbles under the impact of defeat. He is an illiterate who knows to handle the rejection of a woman with dignity. He is a desi wrestler who’s Ko move is punctuated with an obeisance.Sultan manages the hitherto unmanageable feat of trespassing beyond the “Salman” persona to an unchartered territory called acting, that Bajrangi Bhaijaan almost managed to do.
The road to redemption is staged onscreen in an invigorating fashion through the subtle deployment of a few processes as metaphorical devices . Insulted by the woman he loves for the dearth of purpose in his life, he embarks on a journey of self discovery .He starts off with a clear-face shakily,tilling a field singlehandedly to chasing beside a local train. The train zooms past him and there’s a lot left to plow in the field.
As he makes progress; he’s grown a thick stubble now. He almost manages to match the train and the field has significantly been cleared; his limits stretched.
By the end of his metamorphosis- the stubble has turned a marked moustache; he races past the train with the field burning ready for cultivation. A new man is born.
There is this point in the movie where a worn out Sultan, past his prime is trying to stage a comeback. He takes his shirt off before the mirror.What he sees is an image of a man who is not just out of shape, but buried beneath the debris of despair and defeat. He implodes with anguish as even his shirt wouldn’t peacefully let him sneak in to it. It is one of the rare occasions where our hearts go out in unison for this man, overlooking the star portraying him.
Sedentary at soul, he is this lackadaisical individual who wakes up to his potential after instigation. For success has often been his retaliation to instigation- a recurring motif in his life. If Aarfa instigated him with her insult to turn him into a world renown wrestler earlier, a coach now calls him a dead person from the ringside while he gets beaten to pulp, trying to resurrect his carrier in a new form after a sabbatical.
Phat comes the killer move – as if in response – as he lays still his opponent.He springs out of the ring defiantly to tell this man, verbally now that he might have quit wrestling, but never stopped fighting.
The romance isn’t a gratuitous embellishment to ratify song sequences. It constitutes the very heart and soul of the movie.It gives us his love interest Aarfa, an ambitious-strong woman, an Adrian to his Rocky(just that she’s is a wrestler much before he wanted to be one.) She just isn’t there as his prosaic arm candy, but insinuates the necessary friction in his life from time to time.
There’s a beautiful trait she exhibits every time when Sultan makes progress towards something great; she turns away from the happening solicitously. She doesn’t want to spectate, but rather participate vicariously in his travails moment by moment. She does this when he enrols as a green horn wrestler to take part in a state level championship. She does this while coaching kids with her back facing the TV playing his MMA matches.
These finer aspects go on to enhance the relatability of the larger than life proceedings, the stuff that we seldom expect out of a Salman starrer. There is this scene where he watches his wedding night’s video after dinner in isolation. As the shot segues from the video to his room, he’s fallen asleep watching himself fall asleep in the video. We get to know that the nostalgia held in the video is his lullaby.
For once the sight of Bhai is not just the excuse to wolf whistle alone, but a calming influence.