Director Ali Abbas Zafar couldn’t have got a better fit to play Sultan Ali Khan than Salman Khan. No, his physique with bulging muscles that seem designed to play a wrestler is not the only reason. The character and the actor, for some part, seem to have travelled a similar journey in life. Sultan rises to fame because of his wrestling skills and once he has the Olympic gold under his langot, he turns into an arrogant, overconfident person, inebriated with success. He starts believing that he can conquer the world, till a personal mishap brings him back to mother earth.
Sultan, a regular cable guy and an occasional kite runner, gets into wrestling because he wants to impress Aarfa (Anushka Sharma), a wrestler aspiring to be a Olympic gold medal winner at the same sport. Soon after he starts enjoying doing the ‘dhobi pachad’ act on his opponents, he goes on to win that Olympic gold for himself. Not satiated with that, Sultan competes at the world championship level, but this by overlooking a personal emergency back home.
Zafar’s heroine Aarfa starts off being tough, focused and ambitious. But disappointingly, soon enough she chooses to sacrifice it all for domestic bliss and motherhood and turns into the typical Bollywood variety. But one must credit the writers for making an attempt (a feeble one however) to speak up about women’s equality and human integrity. One wishes there was a bit more effort and heart put into that aspect of the story.
Sultan and Aarfa speak in Haryanvi through the film. While Salman’s accent loses balance once in a while, Anushka’s doesn’t. Anushka plays her role of a Haryanvi wrestler to conviction. But it is Salman who manages to get most of your attention as he goes from being a rudderless loverboy to a nearly defeated man with a mission. Khan’s handwork shows as his body shows definitive changes as he goes from being a young strapping confident man to an older grief-stricken version of himself.
There are loopholes galore though and Sultan’s rise to the world championship seems too easy and conveniently hurried in the story. The first half of the film meanders a bit but in the second half, it picks up considerable pace. The climax, although not the nail-biting kind, manages to keep you involved.
The best thing about this film is the story (by Ali Abbas Zafar). As is the focus of most sports-based film, this one has a lot of adrenaline pumping moments. But what you really take away with you is the emotionally rich content of a love story (written by Zafar, screenplay by Aditya Chopra) that runs parallel to the predictable underdog- winning-the-finale saga.
A smart selection of the actors in the side roles, like the brilliantly natural Anant Sharma (playing Govind, Sultan’s trusted friend) and Randeep Hooda (playing Sultan’s coach) adds to the film. Vishal Shekhar’s music and Irshad Kamil’s lyrics, apart from being beautiful, match the flavour of the film.