Sultan is one of the most anticipated films of 2016. It went through all kinds of intentional as well as unintentional publicity seeking methods, so SRK’s Raess film release was delayed by a year. Salman Khan rules the 500 crore club with one blockbuster after the other, therefore is one of the most bankable actors of Bollywood. Sultan is definitely his best film after Bajrangi Bhaijaan though there are elements that needed refining.
Sultan (Salman Khan) is a local aspiring wrestler who falls in love with a wrestler named Aarfa (Anushka Sharma). After several instances, Sultan wins Aarfa’s respect and they marry. They both become successful in their respective wrestling phases until success enters Sultan’s brain. His actions led to a major rift and the family is torn apart. The rest of the plot deals with Sultan’s efforts to make things right again.
Depiction of Aarfa: Feminist overtones and let-down
The movie garnered critical acclamation with praise from the audience but there was a big problematic element that was under discussion as well as scrutiny, how this movie was a major letdown for women. The movie did not exactly start off with Sultan dreams. He was shown as an aimless brat while Aarfa is ambitious. She is raised by an equally ambitious father who initially wanted a son who would carry on his legacy in wrestling. Haryana as a state is notorious for the abnormal reduction in sex ratio which is a result of misogynist mindset, leading to female foeticide and infanticide. In the film, we get to see graffiti and writings on the wall saying “If you kill daughters, where will you get daughter-in-laws“, at the same time we see “Daughters and daughter-in-laws do not go out“, calling out to the social hypocrisy in a way. Aarfa’s dream to win an Olympic gold medal is not just about fulfilling her childhood desire, it was about being a role model for women so that they won’t die within the limitations of a “ghoonghat” and she wants to be remebered as a subjective figure. And, Sultan did not enter in her life just like that. He stalked her and misbehaved with her (publicly), what else do you call when he did all that twerking against her hips during the dance sequences, which was depicted with romantic overtones. He even introduced her as his “girlfriend” before his friends. Aarfa finally confronts him saying that he is nothing compared to her as she has something to look forward to and that he worthy of respect and therefore, love. This sets him off to become a champion wrestler, thus he earns Aarfa’s respect. Both Sultan and Aarfa wins medals in major tournaments like commonwealth games and Asian games. They were both selected for Olympics until the unexpected happened. She becomes pregnant and thus had to give up on her dreams as she valued Sultan’s happiness more. Her father is disappointed as all the years of training have gone in vain. At that moment, I am pretty sure that her father reciprocated his wish for a son in his mind as he wouldn’t have his “small” limitation called motherhood surrounded by social pressure. That being said, Sultan’s ego and the fact that he never cared for the family when compared to his ambition, is what tore the family apart. This was a major twist in the story with emotional underlining. But the let-down is not the pregnancy, it is the fact that they never emphasized anymore on her ambitions. In an already patriarchal society, Sultan is just another phallocentric film with “behind every successful man there’s a woman” overtones although we were introduced to a proto-feminist flavour. It matters not if they wanted to focus on Sultan “the wrestler” or a sports film for men, but including a character like Aarfa is seemingly to draw in female audiences. Sultan’s trailer and promo videos showed Anushka as a female wrestler and her practice sessions were also used for promotion.
Taking Aarfa out of the equation just like that was a huge letdown for women, Anushka tried to justify is herself.
Choosing motherhood over career is empowering. Choosing your career over motherhood is empowering. The Freedom to CHOOSE is empowering.
— Anushka Sharma (@AnushkaSharma) July 16, 2016
Fans will justify it by saying that the film is about Salman and is not for women. Well, judging by the way an ambitious woman was foreshadowed with a move which knocked her out of the equation, this was a huge let down for women with expectations. But if *this* happens, i.e if Aarfa goes on to win an Olympic medal then it is fine, but it is never shown in the movie.
— Anushka Sharma (@AnushkaSharma) July 16, 2016
Aarfa is shown continuing her career with Sultan’s, though it is followed by another pregnancy which is announced when Sultan is sitting next to a woman covered in “ghooghat“, symbolism right there. The best silver lining is that, though he preferred a male heir initially, Sultan have let go of his ego and began to value the need for respect by continuing his down-to-earth nature, above all he accepts his daughter as his heir in wrestling career. He’d better train and respect her such that she wouldn’t end up like Aarfa when it comes to dreams. There are many reports which stated that Anushka’s performance inspired many female wrestlers, which is good but as much as this film tries to highlight proto-feminism, it has failed in making the lasting impact.
Tremendous efforts taken by Salman and team
Technically the film should be appreciated in every way. The structure is good enough to keep the audience at the edge of their seats with fine blend of comic timings, emotional scenarios and artistic moments. I enjoyed the tour scenes, where sultan hugs’s an Indian restaurant’s security guard as he exasperated with foreign food. His “audition” scene is a fun moment to watch giving Salman the platform to shine. The wrestling scenes deserves appreciation. Another plot-hole which bothered me is the lack of further involvement of Sultan’s family. The cinematography and editing combination showed perfect pacing for the fights followed by the director’s artistic overtones. Bollywood have developed a lot in that aspect and keeps on going forward. Salman has taken massive effort for the looks as well as the on-screen fight. He was fluent and elegant in moves. Though he wasn’t great, he managed to keep up a steadfast portrayal overall, some situation looks as if he took a lot of effort to say his lines. Anushka delivered an effortless performance keeping up her status as the most talented actress from her generation. She has taken big effort from her part as well for the fight scenes, though it is unlikely that Aarfa will be remembered after this movie. A big shout out to Randeep Hooda who was fantastic in his role. The chant for Sultan was good but most of the songs were unnecessary, notably the songs where Sultan makes fun of Aarfa with his twerking and moves.
By far, out of the many recent Hindi films I have watched, Sultan is more enjoyable as we will have the patience to sit through even if we come across dragging. This is where SRK’s film Fan failed, though both these films cannot be compared. In general Sultan is a film made for fans of Salman and yes, it is worth the view mainly due to the efforts taken by the actor.
Featured image: hdwallpapers