What a surprisingly good movie! There were still moments that could have been better, the ending dragged, etc. etc., but overall it is still a very good film. I can whole-heartedly recommend it.
This is the “no spoilers” review, but we all kind of already know the general idea from the poster, Salman moves through the decades of Indian history and has many experiences. What was a delightful treat was that he moves through the decades of Indian history without ever rising to the surface. He is the common man, the unseen man, the one whose achievements receive no public honors or fame. But his sacrifices and small moments still matter, are worthy of receiving a movie. That alone is a revolutionary statement.
The entire film is a revolutionary statement. In this era of extreme public patriotism, this movie uses the national anthem and patriotic speeches as gentle humor. In an era of long dull feminist speeches, this film shows rather than tells, allows every woman on screen to have a voice and agency and character. In an era of the capitalist dream of wealth, this movie shows characters who remain in their small lives and small homes and with their small dreams and care nothing for anything more. In an era of constant anger towards others, this movie shows how talking clearly and saying what you feel, building a human connection, can solve any dispute.
There’s also the elements of Indian history the film chooses to highlight. In the whole broad sweep of time since 1947, we see Nehru’s funeral, the 1983 match, a cameo by a young Amitabh Bachchan, a brief glimpse of Shahrukh and Sachin, and the arrival of satellite television. These are the things that changed the common man. The wars, the assassinations, the political turmoil, even The Emergency, this film argues that those things can be left behind, can be forgotten. We should remember the small moments that tie India together as a nation, that give it an identity beyond flagwaving and pride, that are special.
Speaking of special, Salman’s relationship with Kat in this film is something really unique, and wonderful. This is their 6th film together, 3rd as the central romantic couple, and everyone film deepens what they have. I was already kind of in love with Salman and Kat together with Ek Tha Tiger, this movie is 7 years deeper and richer and meaningful. They aren’t the big romantic dramatic couple that you see in every other movie, they are the couple that just somehow fits together, that quietly loves each other, that doesn’t need the big romantic dramatic moments because they are happy just sitting together doing not much of anything. In this movie their most dramatic romantic moments take place in hallways, in government offices, in tiny bedrooms. And the biggest moments of their relationship are silent, an exchange of glances and a tipped head, the non-verbal communication that only a couple that truly knows each other, inside and out, can have.
This still isn’t a perfect movie. The last minute cuts left a few barely visible gaps, mostly related to Shashank Arora who has, maybe, 2 lines of dialogue despite being the hero’s younger brother. Pretty sure he had a whole little storyline that got pulled out. The gap is there because he keeps being referred to as though he is a person we care about, but instead my reaction is “oh right, that guy who has no lines”.
The ending is very rough. Partly that was a cinematic choice, this is a story of a small man who had a small-big life, it wouldn’t be right to give him the usual bells and whistles and grand parade kind of ending. So instead it goes out with a whimper rather than a bang. But it still needed tighter editing, and looser editing. There’s a major emotional moment that somehow didn’t feel like it got enough time to breath. And then we are rushed forward into a whole series of little events and semi-conclusions. The actual ending-ending is sweet and happy and doesn’t actually resolve anything. But that feels on purpose, this movie is not about resolving things, it is about all the little parts of life and finding the happiness when you can and where you can.
Mostly though, a good movie! Great songs, all around good performances, not a single weak link. A nice overall message of respect for the working man and the little people. And Salman gives a great performance, works in the emotional scenes, and delivers excellent one liners the whole way. It’s a Salman movie in the end, and it is a perfect movie for who he is now. Older, tired, but still trying to hold things together and carry the world on his shoulders.