When a comparatively lesser known (but brilliant) actor like Nawazuddin Siddiqui ends up as the guy who brings life to a Salman Khan film – it really makes you wonder if something went wrong. The unassuming actor telling a burka-clad Khan, "...tu phir boli, begum?" is clearly one of the highlights of the film. I went to watch Salman Khan's new big Eid release – Bajrangi Bhaijaan – hoping to witness the cheers and hysteria by die-hard fans of the Bollywood superstar. While some in the audience hooted, whistled and cheered to their heart's content when Khan first appeared on screen with a catchy dance number, it was unfortunately the only time all that excitement was heard. It wasn't because the crowd got lazy, it was just that the film did not give them any further opportunity to do so. Bajrangi Bhaijaan is far from the typical Salman Khan fare where logic, script, story and pretty much everything else related to filmmaking is replaced by just the beloved actor bringing tonnes of swag to the screen. That's not what happens here, courtesy of director Kabir Khan. The filmmaker known to prioritise story and screenplay delivered a massive hit with Khan earlier in 2012's Ek Tha Tiger. The director now collaborates with the star again to bring another film with a message. The film essentially starts out - and successfully connects with the audience - as a sweet tale about a simpleton's cross border mission to reunite an angelic little girl with her family.
But the movie takes a somewhat different turn with the whole Indo-Pak tension coming into play towards the end. Kabir Khan tries too hard with the whole epic grand climax of Bajrangi crossing the border amid mass supporters from both India and Pakistan. Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a borderline Rajkumar Hirani film. It will almost make you cry. But the film falters where Hirani's films triumph – putting the real message across via humour. Here, the humour is situational but the premise of the film is still preachy. In terms of performance, Siddiqui is superb as usual - perfectly controlled with excellent comic timing. This is his second film with Salman Khan (after Kick) and the comfort level shows. Salman Khan is well...restricted. There's no gravity defying action that he indulges in, no big one-liners and no shirt-ripping fury. While Ek Tha Tiger still did justice to the star's image by portraying him as an action man, in Bajrangi he is more human, more real and a little more relatable. For a change, he plays an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation. Kareena Kapoor Khan is competent in her brief role. Overall, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is an average film vying to be a great one. For Salman fans, this is not exactly a disappointment – they will just get to see him in a slightly different light which is good. Besides, I hear the film has already crossed the set benchmarks of box-office records so no threat to Salman Khan's superstardom there. The movie is sweet and endearing in parts. Watch it for the excellent on-screen chemistry between Khan and the straight-out-of-a-Disney-animation-movie Harshaali Malhotra – who is amazing as the lost little girl, Shahida.