11 July, 2016

Sultan: Of the Swing, Salman Rules.

10,000 hours at a minimum are invested in a field of choice before one becomes a master and a champion of it. Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book "├ľutliers" drew this out as one of the conclusions from the data he analysed to decode success. 

Now why did this particular thought come to my mind as I silently walked out of the cinema hall after watching “Sultan”? Both I and my wife were quiet. It was an unexpected experience that had come our way. A Salman Khan movie released on Eid, had us emerging out of a cinema hall in stunned silence.

Salman belongs to an elite troika that has ruled the Hindi Cinema onscreen space over the past twenty years now. Never having been ever openly credited for knowing the craft or for his histrionic ability his notional equity commanded a lower price in the acting arena compared to Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Yet Salman Khan’s movies across his career have collected more money than those of the other two put together, who were a part of the supposed serious, mainstream projects. He is a star, loved by the masses, singularly handsome, and dated the most beautiful women in the world onscreen, his off screen image has a darker edge, that of a bad boy.  His off-screen antics from his early career have been the stuff that did not create happy stories and some took him to facing the law. There is also a different side to him in which he is known to help his co-stars, actors and other technicians that earned him the respectful sobriquet of bhai. From his debut in 1988 till 1992 he gave 5 solo super hits, this was the closest anyone came to Rajesh Khanna’s  record of delivering 15 back to back super hits from 1969-72. Then he meandered in his career, doing nothing meaningful yet his films made money till 2009. That year saw the rebirth of a Bollywood Colossus in him. "Wanted", was a Hindi remake of Pokkiri a Telugu film, directed by Prabhudeva , from this movie on one saw Salman taking command over the box office in a fashion that left every single peer, senior, junior gasping and miles behind. He defined the term a “100 crore” film. Consistently he has given 100's of crores of collections per film, each one of which has the typically front seater crowd whistling, howling and cheering for his action, romance and dances.

This though now was a different Salman Khan. He had taken charge, his performance, his understanding his commitment to every project grew by leaps and bounds and this attention reflected in his performance and films. His Rajveer Shekhawat to Chulbul Pandey are characters have stayed on in his audience’s memory. But with his legal cases, his oft quoted understood - misunderstood utterances and his more popular goofy cinematic image make him a soft target to be looked down upon by the select discerning audience. This same set had done it to Govinda years earlier and now it was Salman’s turn.

It was in this mindset we had entered the Cinema Hall to watch Sultan.

Sultan Ali is a townie from a village in Haryana and the movie opens in a wrestling pit. Sultan (Salman Khan ) has been a local legend in the past and a new recruiter Amit Sadh, trying to enlist him for the TV visual sport of MMA is aghast on seeing an old paunchy clerk in a government office. His queries to a friend of Sultan’s, unearths a story buried under the grime and sweat of a life in which he lived, loved and now seemingly looked like having lost. This was not an athlete in his prime who could be revived or could he? The wrestler has left the ring in memory of his paramour, Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) and as his friend joins the dots we take part in the romance of an impish Sultan. There in Sultan is a lot of heart, broken, bruised but ticking. This is what carries him on and the story leisurely moves on to its conclusion. 

Ali Abbas  Zafar, the director has a firm grip over the movie and it is the script that takes centre stage. It’s the treatment that separates this movie from the rest of what Salman has done. The story is the hero and the lovely lyrics by Irshad Kaamil the poet & lyricist its heroine. The romantic ballad "Jag Ghumiya" is so elegantly crafted by his pen that it will linger on for a long time.The fact that Salman himself lends his voice is just another raisin that I found in my biscuit. The dialect of the movie stays true to its location, is found in the songs too. Both the stars Salman and Anushka are & stay totally in character to deliver excellent performances. Their look is so beautifully designed, that both of them are believable completely.  The music by Vishal-Shekhar is rooted in the soil and the camera by Artur Zurawski the Polish Cinematographer makes love to the landscape and characters.

There is a genuineness ringing across the coin of Sultan the Movie with such a clear ring...it is amazing. The last time we had seen such an authentic energy and across the board genuineness was in Band Baja Baarat by Maneesh Sharma from the YRF’s stable. It is after that we see Ali Abbas Zafar hitting it out of the park in his third attempt at movie making after “My Brother Ki Dulhan”  and “Gunday”. Sultan shall allow him to take a bow for a movie well made. 

In a collaborative effort like making a film when all things fall into place, it is on account of everyone totally owning their work and roles. It is only on such rare occasions then that the movie watching experience becomes seamless and sublime. Everybody is outstanding and no one performance needs to be lauded. The man of the match is clearly the director and the team has won. The Kingdom is no longer King Khan's , it is a Sultanate now and there is but one SULTAN.

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