Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Ali Abbas Zafar
Ali Abbas Zafar
- Salman Khan as Sultan Ali Khan
- Anushka Sharma as Aarfa Ali Khan née Hussain
- Anant Vidhaat Sharma as Govind/Sultan’s friend
- Meiyang Chang as Pro Takedown host
- Randeep Hooda as Fateh Singh/Sultan’s coach
- Amit Sadh as Aakash, Pro Takedown founder and Sultan’s presenter
- Tyron Woodley as Tyron (Himself) (wrestler)
- Marko Zaror as Marcus, the finalist wrestler.
- Kumud Mishra as Barkat Hussain
Akash Oberoi’s mixed martial arts (MMA) league is in trouble. He needs a fighter who can draw in an Indian audience and fast.
His father recommends the name of Sultan—a middle-aged wrestler—living in a small town in Haryana.
Akash meets Sultan only for the fighter to reject his offer claiming that he has given up wrestling forever.
Oberoi is flummoxed and meets Sultan’s associate Govind to learn what he can do to change Sultan’s mind.
Thus begins the flashback into the story of Sultan’s past—his romance with Aarfa Ali Khan, his initiation into the sport in order to impress her (no mean wrestler herself) and her father and how he becomes the supreme wrestler of his time and era.
The duo light up the wrestling world earning plaudits at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. Both are scheduled to participate in the 2012 Olympics but Arafa becomes pregnant just before the Games. She stays home while her spouse goes on the represent India at the Games and clinch gold.
Sultan becomes egoistic after his many-layered success believing that he cannot be beaten by anyone except himself.
He refuses to participate in grassroots level mud akhada tournaments and leaves home once more for the World Championships.
He wins gold but is shattered on learning that his new-born son afflicted with anaemia lost the fight for life in his absence. The doctors could not find anyone with his rare blood type (O Rh –ve)—a blood group Sultan shares.
Sultan—with his hockey stick—knocks over the head of the statue dedicated to his Olympic triumph.
The couple separate. Thus begins the second phase of Sultan’s life—a descent into obscurity and petitioning local politicians to approve the founding of a blood bank in the town.
Akash seizes upon Sultan’s requirements and promises him that the cash earned by fighting in his MMA league will deliver his desired dream of a blood bank named after his son.
Sultan undergoes strenuous training under Fateh Singh—a blacklisted MMA fighter—and learns the ropes of the new sport.
Sultan is thoroughly thrashed by every opponent but defeats them by outlasting them and throwing them over with his classic akhada moves.
In typical Bollywood style, the fight scenes and background score tug at the heartstrings and Sultan is reconciled with Arafa when he is critically injured in the semis. Disregarding medical advice, Sultan fights on and emerges victorious in the final round.
Sultan visualizes Marcus as his younger, arrogant self depicting the maxim that man’s biggest victory is over himself.
Sultan launches a blood bank with his prize money and is reunited with his wife who resumes wrestling. Some years later, they are blessed with a baby girl whom Sultan starts training in the sport.
Highlights of the movie:
Sultan’s gloves imprinted with the words ‘Venum’.
Sometimes you wish Sultan would just stay down after absorbing the kind of punishment he does at his age. MMA is a young man’s sport and the storyline is all pathos with very little logos.
Can you imagine that an Olympic Gold wrestler would find it hard to raise funds for a blood bank? State and central governments should be falling over themselves to support any such endeavour. Had Sultan’s return to the ring had been an attempt at redemption, it could have resonated more with the audience. But maybe that’s been overdone and clichéd.
Dialogues delivered in earthy Haryanvi seem to be literal translations of inspirational English quotes.
The movie is populated with product placements—the most prominent one is Videocon’s D2H placed quite strategically at the back of Sultan’s scooter.
Songs are largely forgettable.
While there is no glossing over Arafa’s sacrifice and dismay at learning that she’s on the cusp of motherhood, one felt that Anushka could have portrayed her angst better and that it is perhaps the beginning of the rift between husband and wife.
Salman Khan’s scene where he tears off his shirt to self-loathingly view his pot-bellied self in the mirror is perhaps his best attempt at method acting ever.
Randeep Hooda as Fateh Singh is impressive.
A must see for Salman fans—they don’t need reviews anyway.