Reviewing the Reviews: Mostly 2.5-3 stars for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

15 Jul,2013

By Deepa Gahlot


In our films, the actors often rise above the material. But once in a while there comes a performance that takes a film onto a different plane altogether– and Farhan Akhtar’s turn as Milkha Singh in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is stupendous.


Most mainline critics, however, found the film too long, melodramatic, unfocussed and fake. Even though the subject of the film is living and participated in the making of the film, it hits so many false notes. It turned the protagonist into a demi-god, but how accurate was the portrayal?



Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

(Released: July 12, 2013)


Key Credits


Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Viacom18 Motion Pictures               



Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra                     


Writer and Lyricist:

Prasoon Joshi                  


Key Cast:

Farhan Akhtar (Milkha Singh)

Sonam Kapoor (Nirmal Kaur)

Rebecca Breeds (Stella)

Dalip Tahil (Jawaharlal Nehru)



Shankar Mahadevan, Loy Mendonsa, Ehsaan Noorani                



Binod Pradhan                



P S Bharathi


Full credits at IMDB:


The ratings were 2.5 to 3 stars, though the RJ and blogger kind of reviewers gushed unabashedly, one going the whole hog with a 5-star review. How seriously these writers are taken is the question.


Rajeev Masand of used the dreaded B word– boring. “The problem with adoring, reverential portraits of real people is that they tend to lack objectivity and quickly become boring. It’s true of Rang De Basanti director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, an ambitious account of the first 27 years or so of celebrated Indian sprinter Milkha Singh’s roller-coaster life….There are moments of great pathos here, and an inspiring lesson on the importance of perseverance and hard work. But it all moves at a snail’s pace, even as the drama of Milkha’s rise on the race track is punctured routinely by too many songs, overlong romantic tracks, and the kind of ‘commercial-movie trappings’ that are counterproductive to a film of this nature.”


Sukanya Verma of commented, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag fails to achieve that level of clarity or coherence, primarily because of Prasoon Joshi’s faulty screenplay and sleepy editing by P Bharti, which appears both overwhelmed and clueless about putting together the many chapters of a sportsman’s eventful existence. So Bhaag Milkha Bhaag adopts the contrived route wherein everyone competing with the titular hero is entirely nefarious and out to break his legs or bully him like those Rajput dudes in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and everything Pakistan implies hostile like those arrogant tyrants in every second jingoistic Bollywood flick.  Moreover, this indecision to project Bhaag Milkha Bhaag as either a) a man dealing with the painful memories of his childhood in partition era, b) the blossoming of a happy-go-lucky army man into a superstar athlete or c) why an individual doesn’t want to visit Pakistan overlaps too often in this three-hour plus, flashback-within-flashback drama to ruin a potentially promising premise. The last point, especially, makes no sense.”


Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express  found it tiresome. “Carefully skirting the tag of a bio-pic, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag manages to tell the story of Milkha Singh, as enacted by Farhan Akhtar, while giving us, tiresomely, all the familiar bells and whistles of a Bollywood entertainer with the naach-gaana, and the rona-dhona.  The story of Milkha Singh is inspirational, doubtless. And Mehra leaves, literally, not one stone unturned (and adds a few of his own, doubtless) in this three hour and some saga…”


Sanjukta Sharma of Mint wrote, “It is a marathon trudge from cradle to national glory following a win in Pakistan against a Pakistani athlete, who incidentally has an aggressive coach, the film’s only villain. The long narrative rallies around the event that carries emotional charge for Milkha Singh and its details are painstakingly overemphasized. So Joshi hooks Milkha Singh’s story out of the context of Indian sports at the time and puts it under an isolating, personal microscope—an interesting approach if not taken to an extreme, clearly against the tradition of the biopic as a chronology of milestones.”


Saibal Chatterjee of ranted, “The overlong Bhaag Milkha Bhaag seeks to achieve a dramatic heightening of the effect of a champion athlete’s rousing struggle to break free from the traumas of the past and turn adversity to opportunity.  In the bargain, it reduces the human saga to a loud, melodramatic and over-wrought tale that overstays its welcome.  It is amply clear by the end of the three hours of the film’s running time that the song-and-dance Bollywood form does not lend itself to the simple dynamics of a sporting biopic. Scenarist Prasoon Joshi and producer-director Mehra attempt to squeeze every ounce of emotion out of the real-life Milkha story. Unfortunately, it is reality that seems to be the biggest casualty in this deeply flawed endeavour.”


Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu nailed the reason why the film may have failed as a biopic, but not as a commercial film. “No, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is not a boring biopic or a detail-obsessed docudrama on one of India’s greatest sporting legends. It is an old-fashioned Bollywood film that caters to mainstream Hindi audiences. It would be more accurate to call this a tribute film inspired by the life of Milkha Singh than refer to this as a history lesson. The film acknowledges this when it ends with a disclaimer: “Inspired by a true life”.  And yes, it’s a complete sell-out of a film. But no complaints there because the best way to honour a legend is to make a film that a majority of India would watch. In an idiom that they prefer, even if it means exaggeration, melodrama and creative liberties with the hero’s love life. And Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra deserves that artistic licence considering that Milkha did indeed face extreme struggle, rose from abject poverty and had to make peace with his painful past.”


Deepa Gahlot is an award-winning film critic and one of the seniormost journalists tracking films and entertainment in the country. The views expressed here are her own and the featuring of reviews is not MxMIndia’s endorsement of the views expressed therein.


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