“Yeh mere dadda ke talawar firangiyon ke gardanon ke liye hai” yells Veer (Salman Khan) the eponymous hero of Anil the Gadar Sharma’s moving epic “Veer”. Now most people in their right minds know that when the Dadda in concern (movie name: Prithvi Singh, the general of a tribe of drunks called the Pindaris) is being played by Mithunda the God Of all Mega-sized Things, they should do well to stay clear of his dangling talawar.
King Gajendra, played by Jackie Shroff, however oblivious of Prabhuji’s power and over-estimating his own, decides to betray the Pindari tribe to the British within the first few minutes of the movie.
Barely settling into your seats balancing your popcorn, you catch, through the corner of your eye, Jackie Shroff’s arm flying across the screen cut clean off with one scythe off Prabhuji’s sword as the tune from “Ude ude hain” echoes in your ears, the song “Ude Ude Hain” being from the famous Mithun-Jackie sleeper-hit “Yamraaj” where they shared screen time under happier circumstances.
And before you can catch your breath, ‘ Hawkins ki citi baaji, khusboo hi khushboo udi” and Mithunda’s wife (played by Neena Gupta who remains in our mind for that Hawkins ad) gives birth to a baby power-house Veera, of course after much citi bajaana that mercifully takes place off-screen.
This baby Veera “chuttar dhone se pahele bandook chalana seekh jata hai” (to quote Ishqiya) and is soon robbing trains, travelling ticketless and doing nayan matakka with comely Princess Yasodhara (played by Zarine Khan, a pudgier version of Katrina Kaif continuing the tradition of Salman Khan acting with duplicates of his girl-friends like Aishwarya-look-alike Sneha Ullal in “Lucky”)
But Prabhuji has plans for his son Veera. That being to send him over to the United Kingdom as a student so that he can understand the twisted mind of the colonialists, come back to India and cut off some English limbs and gardanein. There together with his brother Punya (Sohail Khan) who not co-incidentally rhymes with Sunya, Veera sprouts quotations from George Bernard Shaw in broken English to silence the racist teacher, participates in college fests (complete with a person of African descent dancing hiphop), fights with the evil Indian royals (played by Aryan Vaid and Bal Bramhachari Puru Rajkumar) who speak in horrible British accents, dances with hotties, runs over pavement dwellers—-in the process ripping open the British empire from stem to stern. (Some have conjectured that the UK government’s recent decision to suspend the granting of student visas to Indians has been motivated by “Veer”).
Coming back to the country, Veera then hatches a twisted plot of infiltrating King Gajendra’s lair (King Gajendra having by then replaced his cut-off hand with that of C3PO’s– of Star Wars fame) as well as of winning over Princess Yashodhara , a plot which will culminate in people biting people’s hands, people tearing off other people’s love handles, a Troy-inspired fight with a man who goes by the name of Mahabali Rhino and a climactic hand-to-hand battle that will make even Hector and Achilles cry with shame.
But the story, great as it is, is not the most awesome thing about ‘Veer’.
Indeed ‘Veer”s cinematic magnificence rests on two foundations.
The first of these is Salman Khan. The actor. You know this is going to be all about the Khan, known for his love for animals (particularly those on the verge of extinction) the moment the movie begins as the following message is flashed on the screen.
All animals appearing in the film have been treated properly and without any cruelty. Also the horse falling scene in the film is done computer generated animated shot.
Cinema historians will note that this is the movie when the torch of Godliness passed definitely from Mithun-da to Salman. Calling himself Veera (a reference to Mithun-da character Heera jo chaku se bullet ko cheera), Salman Khan recycles a line originally used by Mithun-da (Cheetah jail theke beriyeche. Saaper chobol ar cheetar khabol jekhane pore arai kilo mangso tule ney which translates to ‘Cheetah is out of jail. Whenever the snake strikes or the cheetah bites, they take with them 2.5 Kg of meat’) by repeatedly saying ‘ Jahaan se pakroonga paanch sher gost nikaaloonga’ . This is as great a homage to Prabhuji that has ever been given on screen.
There are many wow moments in Salman’s performance like when he pins down Puru Rajkumar on the ground and starts inserting and withdrawing his sword into the ground right next to the supine Rajkumar while groaning “Haaye haaye” or when a tiger roars in the background as he fights (it sounds like his stomach is rumbling) or when he executes the “Ek garam chaaye ki payeli ho” dance move with three memsahebs. The most glorious moments however are left for when Salman and Mithun-da share screen-space as son and father. Nowhere is this magic more evident when after Veer comes back from the UK, his drunk dad asks him , in the manner that all fathers do when they meet their phoren-returned sons, ‘Mere liye koi memsem naheen laya?’
‘Veer”s second foundation is also Salman Khan. The script-writer. Co-written with a man called Shaktiman, this is slated to become one of the scripts students of film will pore over for many years to come.
Memsaheb (shocked expression): Accidentally, your father’s hand came out.
Indian coolie: Angela-ji….
Indian coolie: (flirting) Good. You are good.
Memsaheb: Thank you. But this jungle is no good.
Character1: So what time?
Character 2: Wrong time.
If the sharp dialogs have made you dizzy, there is the costume design wherein Veer wears anything that makes him look hot (jeans etc), period be damned, the overall acting style wherein it seems that actors were paid on the basis of how much they could shout and of course the same kind of subtle direction that we saw from Anil Sharma in Gadar Ek Prem Katha.
In all, an epic of epic proportions. Unadulterated heaven.
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