The question gets asked before the release of every Salman Khan film. Will bhai take his shirt off in this one? From the look of its trailer, he will thankfully bare his chest for much of Sultan. Actresses say it often, but in the case of Sultan, it applies to the Dabbang star too – ‘the role demands it’.
Playing the wrestler Sultan Ali Khan, Salman certainly has the buff physique any man in an akhara ought to. He also has the moves, the steely determination and perhaps more importantly, the moustache. He does not, however, have a seamless Haryanvi accent. But then again, Kangana Ranaut’s inflection in Tanu Weds Manu Returns is too impeccable a yardstick to judge someone by.
Films about athletes often follow a trajectory, and if the trailer of Sultan is anything to go by, we should again find ourselves in familiar territory come July 6. There’s that burst of success, a downfall and then a resurrection. Sultan, from the look of things, wins India an Olympic gold, but soon after, we see his life crumble. From the evidence at hand, he seems to have become prey to his own hubris. Randeep Hooda, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) coach in the film, finds Sultan when he is all down and out. The battle is between paunch and punch, and I predict the latter will emerge victor.
The trouble with the Sultan trailer is that it reveals too much. Though it might not give us the precise details of the plot, it certainly does allow us to count the ribs of its skeleton. Anushka Sharma does seem to have been well cast as Aarfa, a fellow wrestler who is referred to as the ‘lioness of Buroli’. The only trouble is that the curve of the film’s love angle has now become apparent. Sultan wants to marry Aarfa the first time he sees her. They dance to a song or two, and then the man’s pride gets the better of him. There’s friction. There’s melancholy. I wish I hadn’t known that just yet.
For a third of Sultan’s trailer, we see the wrestler laboriously train. Salman goes about pumping muscles with an earnest dedication. And to add to this, he has oodles of swag. At one point, he drops a ton of bricks from his shoulder. He looks unflustered. The expression on his face suggests a smug question – ‘So, you were saying?’ It is riveting to see a sluggish Sultan slowly come back to life.
Yash Raj Films seems to have made the reinvention of our biggest stars their business. The studio only recently gave us Fan. The film had Shah Rukh Khan convincingly play a crazed Gaurav Chandna, who was half the actor’s age. And now in Sultan, I suspect, we’re going to see a Salman we haven’t yet. When he’s standing in an MMA ring with blood at the edge of his lips, the red, for once, feels real. The action here appears gritty, not mechanical or exaggeratedly cinematic. The film, though, has been directed by Ali Abbas Zafar. His last offering was the much-derided Gunday. Sultan, we’re told, is a tale of redemption. The director, like his protagonist, could do with some.
Watch the trailer below: