A superstar vehicle that blends the earthiness of the akhada with the flamboyance of the mixed martial arts ring, Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Sultan” is certainly not the last word in the sports film genre. But it definitely is an entertainment package crafted for maximum mass impact.
But isn’t that what a Salman Khan film is for. The actor tones down his swagger just a tad to play an over-the-hill Haryanvi wrestler, who takes the blows of life on his chin and comes out of it unscathed and grinning.
The uneven quality of “Sultan” and the biggest undoing of the film is its inordinate length which robs the drama of some of its sheen.
But with Salman leaving no stone unturned to give his fans their money’s worth, this wrestling epic is destined to go the distance at the box office.
“Sultan” is about a man who finds his métier rather late in life, propelled by his love for a female wrestler (Anushka Sharma) who has no doubts about what she wants to do with herself.
They are both champs at the highest levels of the sport and, after a brief spell of hiccups, the duo hits it off so well with each other that they end up as husband and wife.
When all seems hunky-dory, fate intervenes, tragedy strikes and the couple is torn asunder. The end result is that Sultan turns his back on wrestling.
Eight years on, another opportunity comes knocking on his door. But is he ready to make the most of the second chance? The answer to that question forms the crux of “Sultan”.
There is little in the story to set it apart from other underdog dramas, but the milieu in which it is set Sultan belongs to Buroli village of Haryana’s Rewari district lends it an air of authenticity.
Not that it makes a major difference to the film. “Sultan” is after all designed to project Salman Khan in the best light. So liberties are liberally taken with logic and reality.
So, for example, even when the protagonist ends up with broken ribs after one particularly nasty bout, he and his team are not willing to pull out and seek medical attention.
There is an element of predictability about how things eventually pan out every setback that Sultan suffers is followed by a triumph, every reverse that stops him in his track is rewarded with a turnaround.
But for all the fantastical sweeps that Sultan resorts to in terms of plot details, it remains a reasonably engaging action film that blends romance, emotion and violence in a style that smacks of yore but manages to put the contrivances in what looks like a sparkling new bottle.
Salman is obviously the driving force and he throws his weight behind the project with aplomb. In the fight sequences, some of which tend to overstay their welcome, he pulls off some cool moves.
He receives able support from a bunch of actors who know exactly what they are in this for Anushka Sharma, Amit Sadh, Kumud Mishra, Anant Vidhaat and Randeep Hooda (in a special appearance). Nobody oversteps his or her brief, and that allows Salman to have a field day.
“Sultan,” for all its warts, is none the worse for it. –PTI