STORY: Devout Bajrangi meets a speech-impaired child in India, separated from her family – in Pakistan. Can Bajrangi ensure she gets home safely – and he does too?
REVIEW: So, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is Salman Khan’s most daring film where Salman presents a beautiful performance – but allows the story to be the real dabangg. Pawan (Salman) aka ‘Bajrangi’ is a devout Shri Hanuman bhakt who meets a speech-impaired child (Harshaali) wandering alone, hungry and silent. Bajrangi decides to help the child, whom he calls Munni, return to her family – which is in Pakistan.
Facing borders and biases, lacking a visa, called a spy, can Bajrangi get Munni home – and return to India himself?
With Bajrangi, you meet a whole new Salman – this is not the shirt-ripping, ab-flaunting, dialogue-maro-ing Khan but a simple, innocent and honest man, who fails, gets tricked and beaten up – but never shaken from his purpose. With gentleness and no gimmicks, Salman puts on a polished, luminous performance – and is matched by little Harshaali, whose vulnerability and warmth are amazing.
Add a crackling Nawazuddin, as small-time Pakistani journalist Chand Nawab, hungry for ‘Bariking News’ but moved beyond TRPs by Bajrangi’s quest, and the screen’s alight with lovely acting, with a hilarious ‘Begum’, a child who glows and wanes like the sun, humans who treasure humanity beyond barbed wire and border guards.
Alongside memorable performances (Om Puri chuckles through a Maulvi cameo while Sharat Saxena wrestles with prejudice as Bajrangi’s potential father-in-law), the story features gentle comedy – Bajrangi’s chats with Pakistan’s border security are hilarious – and soulful qawallis. Its beautiful visuals travel unobtrusively from mohallas to mountain peaks, across priceless moments including Bajrangi’s panic-struck stammering to pretty fiance Rasika (Kareena), “Munni, woh, woh – woh hai!”
The plot could be tighter, sagging slightly until Nawaz’s lively entry. However, you see a director evolve – Kabir Khan’s fascination with borders shows again, but while his Ek Tha Tiger was a glamorous cosmopolitan cocktail, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a pure South Asian jalebi, rounded, warm, simple and sweet. Kabir captures the tension of India-Pakistan without negativity and with soft charm, skillfully using a superstar as an actor, a child artist as a superstar and a border as a muse that opens up the world.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan emphasizes how, amidst visas and wars, there are also angels about who don’t see doors. They see homes, lives and children – and sometimes, children see angels too.
It makes a beautiful, mubarak point – one that’s very dabangg too.