Sultan, written and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and produced by Aditya Chopra, is the story of a wrestler's rise and fall and his professional comeback years later as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. Salman Khan plays Sultan Ali Khan, who rises from a small town and achieves global fame by winning the Wrestling World Championship. The other pivotal role is played by Anushka Sharma as Sultan's love interest and a wrestler herself. The movie co-stars Randeep Hooda, Amit Sadh, Parikshit Sahni, and MMA fighter Tyron Woodley.
Sultan begins on a rather slow note, and the plot takes time to build up. We are introduced to a simpleton named Sultan Ali Khan who hails from Rewari district in Haryana. He runs a small cable TV company, but thanks to his athletic build, he happens to be the fastest kite runner in the neighbourhood. During one such excursion, he bumps into a girl named Aarfa who is a state wrestling champion. In an endeavour to woo her, Sultan starts training as a professional wrestler and soon wins the State Championship. He follows it up with the World Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. Then, at the height of his professional career, Sultan experiences a tragic loss which makes him give up wrestling. After spending almost a decade in oblivion, he gets his chance at redemption in the form of Pro Takedown -- India's first mixed martial arts professional league featuring fighters from across the globe. But is Sultan too old and too overweight to compete with some of the deadliest fighters on the planet? Will his professional comeback be short-lived? Or, will he finally succeed in redeeming himself? Well, to give you a hint, the movie is closer to the Rocky series than it is to Raging Bull.
Sultan does succeed in presenting a new face of Muslim protagonists -- where their Indianness overrides their religious identity.
Sultan is exactly what one expects from a Salman Khan movie. Yes, you guessed it right! It is an Eid special that's a complete family entertainer that will make you laugh and cry, should you choose to suspend your disbelief. The first half is slightly dull but has just enough colour to keep one engaged. Come the second half, the movie picks up pace and shapes up really well. The movie's flow here also feels a lot more natural than it does in the first half.
Salman Khan proves yet again why he is India's greatest entertainer today. Sultan is the furthest he has pushed himself in recent years. He brings an endearing guilelessness to the character of Sultan Ali Khan -- indeed, the innocence he is able to exude on the silver screen is one of Salman's greatest charms. Anushka Sharma grabs far more screen time than most actresses have managed to get in recent Salman Khan films, and she succeeds in making her presence felt. The leads are well backed up by the supporting cast with Randeep Hooda delivering a memorable performance.
Overall, Sultan is a crowd-pleaser that will enthrall the average viewer with its themes of love, sacrifice, success, failure, guilt and redemption. And, as Ali Abbas Zafar promised, Sultan does succeed in presenting a new face of Muslim protagonists -- where their Indianness overrides their religious identity. Certainly, it couldn't have come at a better time. And who better than Salman Khan to set this new trend?
Overall, Sultan is a crowd-pleaser that will enthrall the average viewer with its themes of love, sacrifice, success, failure, guilt and redemption.
Sultan, for the most part, teleports us to a world of romanticism and escapism, which is just as well since realism seldom goes well with the Indian audiences. The fighting sequences are brilliantly choreographed, and the sets are also commendable. Some of the aerial shots of Old Delhi with the famous Jama Masjid in focus are breathtaking to watch.
On the downside, Sultan is flooded with product placements which can prove to be annoying. The makers appear desperate to make the most out of a Salman Khan film. But who can blame them? The high level of predictability and lack of plausibility of Sultan's plot may disappoint sophisticated audiences, but the rest will savour the entire concoction without any reservations. Salman Khan continues to be on a roll. Another grand box-office showing is on the cards for him.
A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.
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