I saw Sultan! Yaaaaaaay! It lived up to my expectations. It did not exceed my expectations, but it did live up to them.
First, before anything else, there was so much green in this movie! Salman and Anushka’s characters were both Muslim, and Salman’s intro is him needing to grab a green flag to win a contest, and being cheered on by crowds also waving green flags. And it’s an Eid release. I will be really curious how it does in the UAE market, and in Pakistan. If nothing else, it’s a savvy marketing strategy, the box office for the biggest recent hits have shown how large that market is, why not go after it?
So, how did it live up to my expectations? It was a “big” movie, for one thing. You can see that Yash Raj glitz on it. Big dance numbers, big location shoots, big cast, all of that.
It was also a very Salman movie in the best way. Not the best possible way (I think only Maine Pyar Kiya, Dabangg, and Bajrangi Bhaijaan would be the best possible Salman movies), it hit the sweet spot for his character but it didn’t fully explore what that character would be like. But it did have him play the innocent, the sweet one, the one with the hidden strength that comes out only in adversity.
Anushka was great too. I was disappointed at first, because I felt like her character was kind of simple. But that was just in the first act, in the second, third, and fourth acts for her character, you could see how she could be both simple and difficult, if that makes sense. She made decisions and she stuck with them, and it was very very hard for her to change herself. That struggle, between what she wanted and what she had promised herself, that was what was so interesting.
What I didn’t expect, but was a nice surprise, was how very much of a romance it was. I knew from the trailers that there would be a whole “her love is driving him” motivation. But I didn’t expect how much time we got of them together, and what a strong sense there was through out the film of their connection. How it is so much more a romance film than a sports film.
So, how could it have exceeded my expectations? Song visualizations didn’t blow me away, for one thing. They were fine, did the job, but I didn’t have a “Oh, wow!” moment ever.
Besides having a Muslim hero (which, let’s be real, that’s still kind of a big deal), there was no huge controversial message. I know there doesn’t have to be a message in a movie, but I do appreciate when they throw one in, even something as simple as the inter-caste relationship in Dabangg.
Salman was good, like I said, but he didn’t really really get outside of his comfort zone. There were a few really powerful acting moments, but there were also plenty of times when he just skated by on charm and a sweet smile. Which is fine, but I would really love to see him do another true acting role sometime, where he is powerful like that straight through.
The camerawork and editing and stuff was workmanlike, respectable, but not jaw-dropping. There were a couple of moments late in the film where they used mirrors in a really cool way, which made me go “neat!”, but most of the time the directing was invisible. Not good enough or bad enough to notice.
Same with the script. There were a few good lines, but mostly it felt kind of bland. Nothing that just blew my mind with the poetry or the inventiveness or any of that. But nothing that was shockingly bad either.
So, not a huge disappointment, I didn’t come out thinking “What a waste!” But I also didn’t come out thinking “wow! That is a new classic!”
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I’ve just come back from seeing Sultan, so can finally start reading your reviews. 🙂 I think this is a very fair review, and I agree with most of it, except for one thing. You say they didn’t have any strong message. On the contrary, they did have a very strong message, which they said several times, in very “on the nose” dialog, I thought, but still effective for that. Did you miss all the references to “If you burn your daughters, how will you have any daughters-in-law”? (translated in the subtitles as “brides for your sons”, but the actual dialog was daughters-in-law). Perhaps you are not aware that the state of Haryana has the worst male to female ration in all of India, and, indeed, is the “poster child” for female infanticide and in utero sex selection. They showed this right at the beginning, when Salman is riding his scooter and passes by a billboard with the slogan about daughters and daughter-in-law. Plus they had the usual Salman type of understate PSA’s (like the one you liked about polio shots in Dabangg), about the importance of donating blood, the rarity of certain blood groups (and thus the implied responsibility that people with such rare blood have of donating). I can’t say more about that without getting into spoilers, but I’m sure you realize what I’m alluding to with that last part.
This is the beauty of the multi-review system! I wrote this at midnight right after coming back from the show. By a few days later, when I started my full summary, I had more time to think about it and I had found the message and corrected myself. You’re right, it is right there in the opening shot.
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