Sultan is about this Haryanvi Wrestler, an ex-Gold Medal Winning Olympian + World Wrestling Champion, who gets invited to fight in the MMA-Wrestling League. But he refuses to do so, because there is a tragic backstory. 8 years ago he was, as always, a village idiot with a good heart who fell in love with a National-level wrestler (Anushka) and learnt the Thigh-5 maneuvers to Win her over. In just 6 months he went from a novice to a world beater! But then tragedy struck and he had to give it all up. Will he fight for glory once again? Will he be able to go from ‘tond to toned’? Will he survive the brutal mixed martial arts pro-wrestling league? Yeh bhi koi questions hai??? Ofcourse, it’s Bhai ki picture!
The movie starts with a highly air-brushed version of Salman taking down 8 odd pehelwaans in an akhada. This is the pivotal introduction sequence but the background score is extremely underwhelming and leaves a lot to be desired. From the very beginning you realize that Vishal-Shekhar are not on top of their game. Even the music of the film is sub-standard, which is highly surprising for a Salman movie. The only track that stands out is the brilliant “Bulleya” by Papon.
Now this film is made by the same director who made the torturous “Mere Brother ki Dulhan” and the disastrous “Gunday”, so you know that it can only get better. Hopefully… This time around, he packs in enough material in 3 hours that could have lasted his next 5 films. The story is extremely protracted. Sultan goes from nobody to hero in the first half and repeats it all over again in the second half. In the first half he does it to win his love and in the second half he does it to win his love back! In the first half he learns wrestling by pulling tractors and in the second half he learns Mixed Martial Arts by pummeling rusted cars with a hammer. And the title track plays with different levels of motivation throughout! It’s like watching Rocky 1 and Rocky 4, all in the space of 170 Minutes.
As there is so much to be said, Salman jumps from goofy to grumpy, from family pack to four pack in a matter of minutes. This maddening pace leaves you completely detached from the characters. There is no real sense of pride when he wins the Olympic Medal, because it all seems so blah! You don’t feel his pain when he loses his child, nor his happiness when he gets married. The first half is lifted by the effortless performance of Anant Sharma, who plays Sultan’s friend Govind.
The second half though becomes exciting with the entry of Randeep Hooda. This Rocky type training sequence, followed by a compelling opening bout suddenly gives you some hope. But then Ali Abbas Zafar smashes your hopes and puts on the head lock. Slowly but surely, you begin to doze off. The rest of the bouts seem pointless and clichéd. Having seen 100s of underdog films, you know exactly what is going to happen next. And you walk out shaking you head, wondering what might have been!
Anushka does as well in her Haryanvi avatar as Salman, though they fail to be as convincing as the amazing Kangana in “Tanu Weds Manu returns”. She had set the bar too high, but then the wrestling duo are not bad. Infact Salman pulls off one of the best scenes of his career in the second half when he removes his T-shirt in front of a mirror and is ashamed to see how unfit he has become. The supporting cast is competent, quite unlike Salman’s normal fare.
So is it worth the watch? Well, I know you have already made up your mind. It’s an average underdog movie, that is lifted by some good performances. But is weighed down by its repetitive, clichéd plot and base-numbing length ( Psst… Director ko aapki Base pasand hai.. maarega zaroor!).
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