But for a few inaccuracies and needlessly thrown-in love stories, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is an outstanding movie. It is one of those rare works in which more than one person has given his best. It is by far the most mature work of Director Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra. The man, who showed immense promise with "Rang De Basanti", has more than atoned for the disastrous "Delhi 6". Although music is not a strong point of this film, the obviously talented Prasoon Joshi has come up with lyrics whereby he appears to have raised the bar for himself.
However, the three-hour-long biopic ultimately belongs to Farhan Akhtar. To those who have never seen any of his previous works, he will come across as a competent actor who has worked hard for an ambitious role. But those who are familiar with his rather forgettable works as a director and his various competent, but not extraordinary, performances as an actor are bound to say - Gosh! He is capable of this! One can not predict the whims of juries, but he deserves to win every Best Actor award this year and must be remembered as the man who came up with one of the best-ever celluloid portrayals of a professional sportsman.
He appears to be emoting from every muscle in his body and every tissue in his face. The film can be credited with the most credible and authentic depictions of athletic events. All the runners, not just Farhan, appear to be professionals whose sprints are so different from thieves chased by policemen. It must have taken a lot of physical training for all of them to pull it off so convincingly. However, Farhan's task was obviously more daunting and he comes out with flying colours. He exudes power and vulnerability at the same time, which brings his portrayal so close to the legendary athlete who failed to win an Olympic medal despite having shattered so many records.
His efforts are complemented well by the now-forgotten TV actor Pawan Malhotra to whose potential Hindi film industry has remained blind. Yograj Singh, better known as the father of star batsman Yuvraj Singh, does a fine job. K K Raina has very little to do and Dalip Tahil can not be forgiven for making a caricature of Jawaharlal Nehru. A few words of appreciation must also be reserved for the boy who has played the young Milkha. One does not know whether Japtej Singh would end up in that long row of child artists who earned fame early but floundered as they grew up. But even if Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were his first and last film, credit has to be given to the 12-year-old from Mumbai for playing a tormented rustic Sardar with such aplomb.
As has been said in the beginning, it is a good film. It shorts stop of being a great film because of a few shortcomings that are too glaring to ignore. Too much of footage has been wasted on the pre-marital athlete's flings with women. These may have been real. These may have been imaginary. But insertion of these in the movie look out of place and only slackens the otherwise brisk pace. Besides, while the various races look so authentic, carelessness on part of the director makes many a scene look silly. There is a sequence in which Milkha is shown humming the song "nanha munna rahi hoon desh ka sipahi hoon". The sequence predates Milkha's recruitment to the Army in 1951. And the song is of Mehboob Khan's "Son of India", a 1962 film. Similarly, after having lost a race in Australia, Milkha is shown to be repenting in a wash-room where the wash-basin is fitted with automatic faucets, which came in vogue barely a couple of decades ago. Also, given the hostility that has always been in place between India and Pakistan, Milkha driving on a motorcycle alone to visit his village in Multan looks incongruent.
Nevertheless, anybody who chooses to watch it will not regret the decision.