Everybody loves a good fight. Be it on the streets, on a field or in a ring. But what about the fight within... a fight against yourself? It takes more than just brawn. It takes guts and supreme motivation to challenge yourself and come out with your head held high.
Ali Abbas Zafar's Salman Khan-starrer Sultan is as much a story of redemption for the ageing wrestler Sultan Ali Khan as it is for the superstar himself. Having taken a break from Bhai-giri, with an immensely forgetful Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and the money-spinner Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman steps into the do-gooder shoes once again in Sultan. But wrestler Sultan is not without his flaws.
Once an Olympic gold medallist and World Wrestling Champion, Sultan is on sabbatical and leads an uneventful life in the beautiful and earthy Mewari, Haryana, thanks to his inner demons. Not far away, in Delhi, Aakash Oberoi (Amit Sadh) is under pressure to keep his Pro Take-Down (Mixed Martial Arts league) alive and kicking. In a bid to provide local flavour to the league to draw in crowds, he tries to persuade Sultan to return to the ring. He learns that the wrestler's wounds run deep, and the audience gets a peek into his past.
The supporting cast deserves a special mention here. Be it the hilarious Anant Sharma as Sultan's friend Govind, or the subtle Kumud Mishra as his guru Barkat Hussain, the actors play their parts to perfection. Sultan takes to wrestling in a bid to impress Hussain's daughter, Arafa (Anushka Sharma), who is a state wrestling champion herself. The usual Bollywood routine of rejection-persuasion-love-song and dance-marriage follows, while the audience waits for the film to get down to business. A perfect example is the '440 volt' song—the audience wouldn't have batted an eyelid, even if the whole song was edited out! The result? The film, quite unnecessarily, stretches to 170 minutes.
Predictability hurts the film. A novice like Sultan soon ends up winning the Olympic gold (Oh Bollywood... you make it seem so easy!) and the World Wrestling Championship. But things go downhill from there, till Sultan reinvents himself and his game dramatically in the youthful, and competitive MMA arena.
Having played to the galleries for quite some time, Salman has gone the extra mile for Sultan. There's everything in it for a Salman fan—Bhai flexing those muscles, his signature derriere-shakes while dancing (and a new move, too!), punchlines (like 'Manne pehelwani zaroor chodi hain, par ladna nahi bhoola') and lots of close-ups and slow-frames to augment his aura. But for all the almost-superhuman moments, Sultan is as innocent and real as a wrestler from Haryana's akhada would be. Even the Haryanvi accent is managed quite well by Salman and Anushka, though Anant takes the cherry there.
Vishal and Shekar's music—especially the title track sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Shadab Faridi, which gives an adrenaline rush—complements the film well. After box-office disasters like Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Gunday, director Ali Abbas Zafar seems to have got the formula right with this one.
While Sultan might fall agonisingly short of Chak De! India or Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, when it comes to films on sports and sporting heroes, there's no denying that it is a landmark in Salman's career. Go celebrate Eid with Sultan's dhobi pachhads!
Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Cast: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Amit Sadh, Anant Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Randeep Hooda