Sultan Movie Review: Bigger than Salman and a pulsating tribute to the Indian wrestling fraternity
Ahead of its third season, when Amit Sadh’s Aakash aims to resurrect his ‘Pro Take Down’ fighting league after two disastrous runnings by bringing in an Indian wrestler to participate for the first time, his colleagues are in outrage – how could an ‘average’ Indian stand up to those superhuman athletes of international stature known for their blinding agility and steely vigour inside the ring?
An average Indian, ever so unworthy that he’s written off without a chance to showcase his skills in a sport he’s less likely to be familiar with till date. It’s what the sons and daughters of our very own soil are deemed to be, more often than the contrary. Indeed, we somehow, always fail to acknowledge India’s prominence in the sporting arena teeming with dazzling stars from all parts of the globe.
It is this flawed convention that Ali Abbas Zafar’s ‘Sultan’ has taken a stand against. When a forty-plus wrestling champion of the yesteryears grabs a towering European by the scruff of his neck to serve the high-octane Dhobi Pachad to him in his Desi style, you revel at the moreish flavour of India.
Played by Salman Khan, the central Sultan Ali Khan Cheema is the brawny Asli Jat who’d never surrender in the face of adversity and stop at nothing that could possibly defeat him. Co-starred impeccably by Anushka Sharma as the ambitious Aarfa and Randeep Hooda as the local MMA coach who stages Sultan’s comeback into the competitive field after an extensive hiatus, controversy’s favourite son, Salman Khan delivers a quality sports drama from the house of Yash Raj Films.
Having released one month prior to the Rio Olympics 2016 on an auspicious Eid weekday, ‘Sultan’ is pulling in viewers from far and wide to lap up the excitement dispensed by the lively plot revolving around the central theme of wrestling.
In a refreshing deviation from the usual. not for a second does Salman don the ‘Bhai’ cap in this riveting watch. Contesting burly males in Haryana, Anushka’s Aarfa rises through the ranks as a female wrestler in a compellingly befitting tribute to the real-life Geeta Phogat who won India's first ever gold medal in women's wrestling in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
By no means, however, is ‘Sultan’ perfect in its storytelling. The overly familiar ‘rise of the underdog’ occurs, quite predictably, in the first half itself – perhaps a bit too fast at that, to justify its Bollywood origins. With scores of aspiring wrestling champions going at it at the Akhara for years, Sultan’s transition from being a complete stranger to the sport to the newly instated State Champion happens almost overnight, so does his ascent from winning back-to-back golds at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the Guangzhou Asiad in 2010 to finishing top at the 2012 London Olympics before clinching his maiden World Wrestling Title in 2013; but to be fair, we’ve seen far greater miracles take place before, in Indian cinema.
India has its largest ever contingent gearing up for the Olympic challenge at Rio de Janeiro this year amongst which an unprecedented eight players will represent the nation in the wrestling event. With five men and three women wrestlers set to chase Olympic glory for India next month, ‘Sultan’ is certainly doing its bit to expand the popularity of the sport across the country. Salman Khan’s inclusion as a Goodwill Ambassador by the IOA, therefore, it should be noted here, wasn’t totally unjustified after all.