A Salman Khan movie comes with a specific set of expectations. You’ll have a wafer thin plot, you’ll have a good-hearted, likely shirtless, tough guy beating baddies to pulp, some wacko dance numbers with him trying to woo the girl, and so on. Sultan checks some of these boxes but thankfully creates some new ones as well. The story is a simple one about the rise, fall and resurrection of a wrestler against the challenges life throws at him.
What’s different is the immense physical and emotional punch Salman packs into this film. He really leaves himself all out there – be it physically in the MMA bouts, grappling sessions in the mud, terrific training montages and even emotionally when he looks at his overweight, haggard self in the mirror, denies having ‘gurroor’, or when he’s shamed by the lady he’s trying to woo. Anushka has the most any leading lady has had to do in a long time in a Salman-starrer and she matches him all the way despite being handed lazily written feminist tones in her role. A couple of the supporting cast really stood out for me despite having under-written characters – the ever reliable Kumud Mishra as Anushka’s father and Anant Sharma as Sultan’s gold-hearted best friend Govind.
Three of Vishal-Shekhar’s numbers from a partly soulful score struck a chord with me – Buleya, Jag Ghoomeya and the Sultan theme that plays through the movie. They’re beautifully written by Irshad Kamil and help the story move forward as well. The other songs aren’t bad but do hinder the pace in an almost three hour flick.
What really works more than anything else is the vulnerability and fallibility that Salman brings to Sultan. For a change he’s not invincible, he’s not perfect, he gets beaten up, he’s almost an underdog and he actually needs to work hard to win. Which really ends up making you root for him – in the ring and in his life.
Sultan might be predictable, uses familiar sports movie cliches and borrows heavily from the Rocky series as well as its latest avtar – Creed but where it does not lack is in the entertainment quotient. It features some well choreographed wrestling and MMA bouts (albeit a few too many), in between a generally engaging love story. Director Ali Abbas Zafar shows a marked improvement over his last two efforts but has his superstar to thank for doing most of the heavy lifting.
Genre: Sports, Drama
Directed by: Ali Abbas Zafar
Starring: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma
Running time: 170 minutes