Kids Corner

Above, and immediately below: the real Milkha Singh -- today, and in his youth, respectively.


Bhaag Milkha Bhaag





A million people died during the Partition of Punjab in 1947. Punjab was grabbed by each arm and pulled until it tore apart at the seams and families fell into the cracks. Lost.

Milkha Singh was 12 years old.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, starring the talented writer-turned-actor Farhan Akhtar, and directed by Rang de Basanti’s Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, is a biopic about the story of a young Sikh boy who sees his entire family murdered in the communal violence following the Partition of Punjab, thereafter divided between a new India and Pakistan.

After witnessing this scarring event, young Milkha escapes across the border, falls into the abyss of poverty, and rises out of the fire to grab gold medals and a world record. He even finds time to swoon Aussie babes despite speaking little English.

Now, that’s game.

The year was 1960. Milkha refused to race in Pakistan. The media had a field day. The whole situation seemed blown out of proportion until two of Milkha’s coaches explained to the Indian Prime Minister that there were pools of blood under the surface of the earth. Pakistan was the painful site of Partition, and even more painful, the site of his family’s slaughter. How could he return?

This film worked because it delivered honesty. It didn’t just show the finish line, but rather each ground-pounding step. It showed determination … an underdog ... a champion.

It showed inner-demons. It showed that Milkha is human.

That’s what will leave you shakingly proud and wanting to cheer. You may even end up, like me, having to explain to those next to you that “you just have something in your eye.”

The only lie this otherwise authentic film tells is that it is a “biopic.”

While Bhaag Milkha Bhaag aspires for a distinct label, this film still has all the bells and whistles of a big budget Bollywood film.

Triumphant horns blasting as Milkha crosses the finish line? Check.

Lead actor walking the creepy bollywood line between finding love and finding a restraining order? Done.

The film might have dragged its feet at certain song/dance routines, but fortunately the score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy was honed enough to carry the film along.

The one sharp difference this film has from other contemporary Bollywood films is the respect and honesty with which Mehra portrays Sikhs.

For many it will feel refreshing.

Less than a year ago, the Bollywood film  “Son of Sardar” boasted lines like, “If no Sardar had been there, who would we make fun of?”

On the other hand, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag depicts Sardars in the top ranks of the military, contains a tribute to the long history of Sikh warriors, and tastefully acknowledges Guru Gobind Singh seminal role in the shaping of the country. This is a vast improvement from the past depictions based on mischief and dishonesty and, quite frankly, a more authentic one.

If the so called king of ‘rags to riches’ Jay Z was aware of Milkha Singh’s voyage, he would consider his own journey a cake walk on the yellow brick road.

Milkha wanted to survive. All he wanted was “dudh” -- milk! -- symbolic of his simple and humble beginnings. After years of being fueled by milk and rage, he overcame more than anyone ever expected, and that is what beamed through
the intermittent tediousness and overproduction of several scenes.

The incredible story and courageous acting positions Bhaag Milkha Bhaag to be one of the top Bollywood films of the year.

[A pre-law student, an actor, and human rights activist based in New Jersey, Balpreet Singh attends Rutgers University and serves as an Intern for The Surat Initiative. He loves running and basketball but, most importantly, he loves his pen.]

July 15, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Indu Kaur (Dearborn Heights, Michigan, USA), July 15, 2013, 8:32 AM.

A very powerful movie. I'm sure it will go down in history ...

2: Ranjit Kaur (New Jersey, USA), July 15, 2013, 8:58 AM.

Great review! Great man!

3: Bibek Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), July 16, 2013, 12:06 AM.

Very nice review!

4: Satin Pal Singh (Jammu, J & K), July 28, 2013, 4:22 AM.

Good review. Good person. Great movie.

5: Ranjit Singh Masuta  (Langenthal, Switzerland), January 05, 2016, 11:21 AM.

Great honor for us all to have such a hero like Sardar Sahib.

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