' Bhag Milka Bhag' - Meaning of that backward gaze.
"Bhag Milkha, Bhag" – Value of a fraction of second .
1960 Rome Olympics. Stage is all set to witness 400 meters finals. All eyes are on the man who will start his race from the 6th track. He is the world record holder in 400 m category; ray of hope for India, to win a medal in the Track and Field events ever in the history of Olympics. Yes, he is none other than Milkha Singh - the man with golden spikes. Experts and media already declared Milkha as the winner. India toobelieved that Milkha will create history for India and our national anthem will echo in the Olympics arena. World record holder Milka Singh crouches at the starting line along with the best athletes of the world, his face set in utmost concentration, shoulders hunched as if the weight of anticipation of an entire nation was on his shoulders. The roar of the crowd reverberates and through it the muted ' bang' of the starting gun. Milka comes out of the crouch with an explosive burst of power. Each of his long stride end with his toes barely, reluctantly touching the ground. His arms are pumping, aiding the forward movement in perfect synchronization with his legs. It is halfway, and Milka , as expected, is in front of the pack.
Suddenly, over the roar of the crowd, Milka distinctly hears an exhortation like the sound of rolling thunder, - ' Bhag Milka Bhag' ( Run Milka Run) . And behind him, hehears the clatter sound of horse hoofs, clash of naked swords, loud feeble cries, roar of rage, right behind him. The sound is overwhelming advancing closing on him. Will Milka look back? Will he, a world class sprinter, commit the error which even a school level competitor would not do? But, Milka does, just for a moment, a millisecond, turn his head to gaze behind him. And the level of competition assures that that second is adequate for the others to bypass him and Milka is pushed to the fourth spot.
These are the starting scenes of the movie. The matter of the movie is the search for the meaning of this backward gaze - a search for the nuanced factors which came into play in the athlete's life and that of the nation.
Wonderful portrayal. The Director Rakesh Ohm Prakash Mehra extracted and recreated the Olympic competition of that time (1960) in all its grandeur. Lead actorof the film Fahran Akthar has transformed himself into a professional athlete. In his role he virtually becomes the Milka Singh, not only in his physique but also in his body language, attitude and spirit. As a viewer I could not take my eyes off the screen and was feeling goose bumps many times. The defeat at the Olympics makes demoralizesMilka. He refuses to take part in the bi-national athletic competition with Pakistan. This harsh step sends shockwaves in the athletic community and in order to persuade him to revise his decision, a delegation, led by his former coach, is sent to by the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On the way to meet him, Milka coach reveals the reason behind Milka's withdrawal from the upcoming athletic event with Pakistan. The story starts from this point.
The next part of the movie shows Milka's childhood home pre-partition, in a village in Pakistani Punjab, a place of peace and harmony. Yet, the Village is the in the eye of a storm, the riots accompanying the partition of the country reaches it with inevitable ferocity. Options left with the non-muslims in the country was either to convert to Islam or die, if they hesistate to leave the country. Milka's father, the 'Mukhya' of the village, is shown exhorting his people to stand firm and defend themselves against the Islamist fanatics who are poised to attack the village. He rallies the villagers reminding them they have the blood of Guru Tej Bahadur and Guru Govingd Singh flowing through their veins, the great souls who offered themselves and their children in the name of the motherland and to protect the Dharma (Righteousness). The boy Milka watches his father, along with others of the village, take up his kripan and prepare to defendthem.
Though the villagers put up a gallant fight, the numerically stronger Islamists overwhelm the villagers and Milka looses everything that he had held dear. Milka sees his father, who has only one leg, being cut down from behind by sword wielding horsemen. Before going down, the father yells to Milka to save himself yelling ' Bhag Milka bhag' (Run Milka run). The child frozen with fear by the carnage is shocked into action, into survival mode, by the scream of his father.
The scenes of the carnage are thus burned into the memory of the 12 year old boy, with it the flames of torches, the burning eyes of the religious fanatics, the cries of the innocent. And that dying father's scream' Bhag Milka Bhag', carrying with it the pain of loss, horrors of that childhood trauma, becomes a mantra for young Milka's. The movie shows the 12 year boy, fuelled by the memories of pain, who saw the dead bodies of his parents in heap dumped in the fields, where he used to play and a burning desire for survival and the desire to redeem himself, growing into the Sikh who would fly without wings.
The movie has young Milka travelling from the blood drenched village to the refugee camp near the border. There he meets his sister to whom he is greatly attached. Here the director again shows honesty to history and effort to put the real picture in to action sequence. Along with the Indian army, Red Cross, RSS Swayamsevaks in theiruniform are shown running the refugee camp, serving food, providing medical facilitiesto the refugees. Being it's a picturisation of a real life incident; the director has portrayed the scenes with 100% true pictures. Recently a movie in Kerala had shown an RSS shakha and on being asked its relevance, the director said that the RSS shakha was a social reality in Kerala that no one could ignore that. It's a fact that RSS has now became a significant part of our society, that no one can ignore while screening a social canvas. Similarly, in the context of the service provided to the refugees during the partition time, the Sangh was a reality and it cannot be ignored. This movie is a reflection of that reality and the director has to be congratulated for this honesty and commitment to history.
The struggle for life takes Milka to narrow dark pathways - to petty crime. It is at this time that he meets his love interest ( Sonam kapoor ) who gradually weans him away from the dark side. It leads to another journey and to a military camp. Milka joins the army. The role of a tamilian trainer Usthaad in the military camp is carried with élan by actor Prakash Raj. His loud 'orders' and flamboyant manner are funny and evoke much mirth in the theatre. His repeated instruction that the soldiers should become an offering in the sacred fire is twisted into a song by the cadets –"Havan Karenge, Havan Karenge".This song has been cited as anti-Hindu by some over enthusiast. Yet, seen in the context of the movie and the manner in which it is presented, the allegation of a religious slight is seen to be misplaced. The song can be best described as 'mischievous'. Here again in the song sequence, actor Fahran generates an ambience of 'energetic youthfulness'. At the military camp, Milka participates in a marathon which he wins earning him milk and this signals the turn to his career as an athlete.
Milka goes through another instructor and finally is taken up by the national coach ( Yog Raj ) under whom he scales new heights of excellence. He becomes the world record holder, but is thwarted at the Olympics by the trauma of the partition violence. The underlying message of this defeat can be that the present failure of the India nation to reach new heights of excellence is rooted in the partition of the country.
He became the world record holder, and it was at that period he participated in Rome Olympics. But the memoirs of the hoary partition scattered his concentration and it forced him to look back for a while. Milkha and Bharat failed because of that. It is the message which this film intent to part with the viewers, the tragic story of partition still haunts us and it builds all hindrances on the path of our progress. It's like, India as a nation got crippled suddenly as a result of that communal segregation which was noteven in the wildest dreams of an Indian. The India – Pak partition thus doubled the impact, as the British left the administration of India in the hands of some people whocouldn't understand the very soul of this nation and hold the people together as one.As we could see, India took a very long journey to recover or to get back in the track from that shock and to continue in its path to success. We can analyze this fall back of India when we come across the growth and development happened in many other countries which started its journey along with us , after getting Independence or the start of reformation by their respected national leaders. Those countries while singing their victory saga, we are weeping because of this root cause called partition. We lost our identity as a nation and more or less handicapped.
Persuaded by his former associates and coaches, Milka goes to Delhi and, meets Nehru and explains to him why he won't be able to go to Pakistan for the athletic competition. It's a heart breaking scene and dialogue, which he explains his pain of losing his dear ones in that carnage named partition.
"Meim doud nahi paavoonga .
Mere payir nahi hilenge
Mere apnom ka khoon hai voh mitti meim
Meim saas nahi le paavoonga sir
vahaam ke hava me, mere apanom ka Aasoo hai sir
Vaham muchhe mere apnom ka
yaad aataa hai sir, meim doud nahi paavoonga sir"
Sir , I cannot run in that soil, in that land is the blood of my relatives. Sir, I cannot breath in that air, for in that land is the tears of my brothers and sisters, ,....If I go there, I will be overwhelmed by the haunting memories of my family, I cannot run there sir...
It's obvious that a 12 year boys memories won't fade much easily, whose father, mother and relatives were brutally killed in front of his eyes and thrown him over a heap of dead bodies of his dear ones just because they held their land and dharma for survival. That's why those last words of his father, "Bhag Milkha, Bhag" still echoing and piercing his ears. How can he forget his father who stood and fight till the last minute to save his family and son? Farhan Akhtar's emotional delivery of dialogues will bring tears in our eyes. The lines wrote by script writer Prasson Joshi is perfectlysynchronizing with the situation. Director Rakesh Mehra executed it very aptly. Salute for the entire team.
Yet Nehru persuades Milka to go and Milka succeeds in winning the event on Pak soil. Pakistani president General Ayub Khan presents Milka with the title – the flying sikh.
It can be said that director Rakesh Mehra has been very honest with this subject. The reason shown for the inability of the star athlete to qualify in Australia and the scene at the refugee camp which shows the cruelty of his brother –in-law testifies to this honesty. The message that discipline and perseverance can see people through is also given.
Cinematography done by Binod Pradhan is superb. His creative visuals and cutting edge imagery proved once again, that he will leave his mark in Indian Cinema. The historic finish by diving flat which the sports world still cherishing in their memory has been reenacted marvelously. Many scenes in the film is captured amazingly by Pradhan which will took the audience to a new level of visual feast. He has kept his creative talent in this film too like he did in Rakesh Mehra's previous film Rang Debasanti which was also a nice visual experience. Kudos to Binod Pradhan along with farhaan Akthar.
Fahran Akhthar's presentation shows his depth of professionalism and talent. Divya dutta who acts as Milka's sister gives a magnificent performance. In my opinion her effortless performance deserves a national award. The story , script and songs are by Prasoon Joshi. His contribution is exceptional since it has elevated the movie, which might have easily become a documentary, into an entertainer or rather an infotainer. Director Rakesh Om Praksh Mehra has done magic this time also in awakening the patriotic spirit in the minds of audience, which he did in film "Rang De Basanti" also in 2006. Ofcourse the credit goes to the entire team of "Bhag Milkha Bhag" which forced the people calling out "Vande mataram" and "Bharath Mata ki Jai" in the film houses. Speechless in the angle of great Craftsmanship. This movie, like the earlier ' Rang De Basanthi' has succeeded in re-kindling nationalism among its viewers That the theme of the life of an athlete could be used to generate this national pride is a tribute to the skill of Rakesh Omprakash Mehra.
(Sarve Bhanthu Sukhina: )
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