Posts Tagged ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’


In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility.  In this post, we consider movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.



In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the people affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis had helped the people of China during the Japanese invasion. His selfless service makes us remember people like him with profound gratitude. He had married and settled down there itself but had eventually died of plague.

Our hearts get filled with gratitude when we think of either the Corona Warriors or the soldiers who guard our borders.


Jaagte Raho (1956) takes us through a night in the life of a poor peasant (Raj Kapoor) who enters a multi-storied building in Mumbai looking for some water to drink. After witnessing the shady deals of the high and mighty of the society, he is shocked but is not able to find water. Eventually, he finds a young lady (Nargis) watering the plants in a temple nearby who helps him to quench his thirst. The look of gratitude on his face says it all.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) is based on the profound sense of gratitude an army feels towards its soldiers and their families. It is set against the backdrop of World War II and the Normandy Invasion. General George Marshall learns that three of the four sons of the Ryan family have got killed in action and that the only remaining son, James Francis Ryan, is with the 101st Airborne Division somewhere in Normandy. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, he orders Ryan to be brought home and to be reunited with his mother.



Many of us have a bulldog-like quality in us; of not giving up on the goals that we desire to achieve in our lives. Irrespective of the kind of difficulties we face and the obstacles we come across, we keep working on a particular project till the objective is met. If we have made a sincere promise to someone, we go out of our way to fulfill it.


The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is one of the several movies which showcase the indomitable spirit of human beings. A prison life replete with all its obnoxiousness does not dim the flame of hope inside. If a tunnel takes 19 years to build, so be it. Life has to be lived, not thrown away just because odds happen to be stacked against us. A promise made needs to be fulfilled.


Almost all the sport-themed movies focus on this quality. Think of Lagan (2001), Iqbal (2005), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016).


Then there are movies of individual resolve which uplift your spirits by highlighting the kind of travails the characters go through to achieve what they want; Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and Secret Superstar (2017), to name a few.

Erin Brockovich (2000) is another good example of this personality trait. We shall return to it soon enough.



Rolling stones gather no moss, as the wise men say. Life is but another name for the inner motivation we have when we aspire for higher things. The aim could be a basket of materialistic desires or a wide spectrum of spiritual progress. When we aspire for it, perseverance propels us towards our chosen goal.


Sujata (1959) was about an untouchable girl (Nutan) brought up by an upper caste couple. It is only when a young man (Sunil Dutt) walks into her life that she awakens to her aspiration to lead a normal life.


In Swades (2004) we get to meet Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a NASA scientist who wants to return to his roots in India, with an aspiration to solve the problems of local villagers using modern technology.


Aaja Nachle (2007) had a gutsy US-based choreographer Radha (Madhuri Dixit) desirous of saving Ajanta, an old open air theatre planned to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall in her home town in India. The difficulties faced by her in keeping an old cultural tradition alive in the face of strong forces of so-called modernization formed the crux of the script.


Despite outward signs of success, many of us feel lost, confused and searching for what we really want in our lives. Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) shows us a way out of this misery in Eat, Pray and Love (2010). She steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She cherishes nourishment for the body in Italy and for the soul in India. Finally, and unexpectedly, she finds the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia.


In Udaan (2010), we meet a 17-year old youngster who wants to be free of the overriding discipline of his father at home. How he overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to aspire for a life free of humiliation and abuse is the central theme.


Hindi Medium (2017) showcases the aspirations of a young couple to ensure that their son willy-nilly gets admitted to a good English medium school. The movie ends on a positive note and captures the potential of refurbished public schools which could give a healthy competition to so called elite schools. It was based on a successful experiment conducted by the Delhi government in its public schools a few years back.


Sui Dhaaga (2018) introduces us to Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his wife Mamta (Anushka Sharma) who, when humiliated and cheated by the company where they work as tailors, become entrepreneurs and make their venture a success despite severe odds.

In all these cases, the settings and the aspirations are quite different. But the central message is clear – that we need to work hard to realize our dreams.



This is a unique quality of those with an open mind, capable of receiving and taking in knowledge and new ideas and then acting upon the same, if necessary and prudent.


Take the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore) in Anupama (1966). She is extremely shy, diffident and introverted. She has been brought up by a father who blames her for the death of his wife during childbirth. She falls in love with Ashok (Dharmendra) who is disliked by her father. A close friend of hers gives her a dressing down and awakens her to the possibility of a happier life in Ashok’s company. She picks up the courage to stand up to her father, obtains his hesitant consent and joins her beloved.


Taare Zameen Par (2007), based on the challenges faced by a young boy suffering from dyslexia, brings in the character of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan), a cheerful and optimistic art instructor. After meeting the boy’s parents, the perceptive teacher is able to diagnose the illness from which Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) suffers. He also finds the boy’s hidden talent for art and takes him under his wings, enabling him to start living a near-normal life.


Avatar (2009) happens to be a movie which pitches for sustainability and care for environment. Set in 2154 AD, it calls upon all of us to be receptive to the fragility of nature and limited resources of our planet. One of the unique concepts brought up by the script is that of the sacred Tree of Souls.

In a way, such movies exhort us to be receptive to changes happening all around us and revising our basic priorities in life. Perhaps the Covid virus is also nudging all of us in the same direction.


(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)


(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4





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Hormones are surely stronger than man-made borders between countries. Examples abound of couples tying the knot across the Indo-Pakistan border. Celebrity tennis ace Sania Mirza and cricket player Shoaib Malik did so a few years back. Several other couples have found true love across the borders – some have met with success, some with disappointment.

Bollywood has capitalized on enmity between India and Pakistan in several of its movies.  However, several directors have been bold enough to send out a message of peace and unity by depicting movies depicting the trials and tribulations of lovers from across the border. Of late, the imagination of script writers has become more vivid, what with RAW and ISI agents falling in love with each other, inviting the wrath of their respective bosses!

Henna (Raj and Randhir Kapoor, 1991)Poster Henna

Refugee (J P Dutta, 2001)Poster Refugee

Gadar – Ek Prem Katha (Anil Sharma, 2001)Poster Gadar

Veer-Zaara (Yash Chopra, 2004)Poster Veer Zaara

Agent Vinod (Sriram Raghavan, 2012)POster Agent Vinod

Ek Tha Tiger (Kabir Khan, 2012)Poster Ek_Tha_Tiger

Movies like Henna and Veer-Zaara had no violent scenes and conveyed the message of love between India and Pakistan in a very mature and sensible manner. In Veer-Zaara, the spirit of sacrifice made by Veer (Shahrukh Khan) to protect the family honor of Zara (Preity Zinta) tugged at one’s heart-strings. A surprise twist in the tale lay in the subsequent revelation that Zara had crossed over to Veer’s village in India and was running a school in the memory of Veer’s foster parents.

Actresses from across the border have often found meaty roles in Bollywood movies. Nikaah (B R Chopra, 1982) featured Salma Agha.Poster Garam Hawa Henna used the talent of Zeba Bakhtiyar. Recently, Meesa Shafi played a role in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2013).

Bollywood has also captured the pangs of partition in various movies. Garam Hawa (M S Sathyu, 1973), Earth 1947 (Deepa Mehta, 1998), Hey Ram (Kamal Haasan, 2000) and Pinjar (Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, 2003) were well crafted. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also made an effective portrayal of the pain, suffering and trauma associated with the holocaust.

The coming generations in both the countries are bound to be smarter than we are. They would also have the advantage of being free of our earlier generation’s emotional baggage. Time is a great healer, it is said. Hopefully, a day will dawn when the two countries would stop being pawns in the hands of other countries. Powers that be in both countries would one day realize that part of their massive military budgets can instead be used to fight their common war against hunger, poverty, malnutrition and education!

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When it comes to sports-based themes in movies, the batting average of Bollywood seems to be improving of late. The latest release, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the life and times of ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, exemplifies this trend.

The movie, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, is truly captivating. It is 188 minutes long and belongs to the old BollywoodPOster Bhaag_Milkha_Bhaag_ format. One needs to sit back, relax and let the narrative unfold at its own pace. Sterling performances, great cinematography and a tight script which keeps relapsing into flashbacks make it a memorable movie. The passion, the pain and the hard work involved in training for sports at the global level are etched out in great detail. And so have been the common setbacks – failure in love, distraction owing to a casual fling, inability to bury the ugly past, to name a few.

Songs are genuine breaks in the story and do not rush one along. The viewer is mercifully spared of the trauma of strained optical nerves due to the absence of excessive freeze frames and two-second shots juxtaposed together – a standard recipe in Bollywood these days. The movie captures the pangs of partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 very vividly. And, of course, there is an undercurrent of humor to pep up the proceedings. Overall, a movie not to be missed!

The movie also has a few things that appear out-of-place; for example, the high mast tower on the railway tracks and a clean-shaven chest for the hero, both of which look out of tune with the times. Then there are a couple of steamy sequences – one involving Milkha’s sister in a refugee camp and another between Milkha and an Australian beauty. These take the movie out-of-bounds for conservative families who have children in the impressionable-cum-inquisitive age. A pity indeed, because the message is essentially intended to motivate the younger generation to consider taking up sports as a serious activity, as also to encourage youngsters to strive for perfection in any field of their choice.poster Jo_Jeeta_Wohi_Sikandar_

In the past, Bollywood has come up with movies which are centered on sports. However, these can be counted on finger tips. Here is a quick recap.

  • Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992, Mansur Khan)

A tale of two rival colleges set in the age of innocent romance. The climax of the movie is a bicycle race which the hero must win to reclaim the honor for his family and his college. He does so, and wins over his sweetheart as well.

  • Hip Hip Hurray (1984, Prakash Jha)

The story of a computer engineer turned sports instructor who overcomes several obstacles and leads his football team to victory. Poster Lagaan

  • Lagaan (2001, Ashutosh Gowarikar)

When the impoverished villagers seek a relief from land tax from their British rulers, a wager is offered instead: if they win a game of cricket with them, tax for three years would be waived. The villagers go on to learn an alien game and then win so as to bring prosperity to their village. They do so with sheer grit and determination.

  • Iqbal (2005, Nagesh Kukunoor)

Heart-warming story of a village boy who is deaf and mute. He is obsessed with cricket and dreams of making it to the Indian national cricket team. He is opposed by his father but supported by his mother and sister. He manages to get coached by a local drunkard, Mohit, who was once a great cricketer himself, and realizes his dream.poster Chak_De!_India

  • Chak De! India (2007, Shimit Ameen)

A brilliant movie which explores religious discrimination, ethnic and regional prejudice and sexism prevalent in India. It is set against the backdrop of field hockey and narrates how the coach overcomes prejudices against him, unites players from diverse Indian backgrounds and leads the team to victory at the international level.

  • Patiala House (2011, Nikhil Advani)

A disagreement comes about between a father and a son over the latter trying to make a career out of cricket. The son is a fast bowler, the role being loosely based on Monty Panesar. Based on his passion for the sport, support from his mother, girl friend andposter Paan_Singh_Tomar_ siblings, the son wins his argument in the end.

  • Paan Singh Tomar (2012, Tigmanshu Dhulia)

The movie is based on the real story of a steeplechase athlete who wins international recognition but turns to dacoity due to a land grab dispute in his native village. A riveting performance by Irrfan Khan had the viewers in thrall. Like Milkha, his talent was also spotted and developed in the Indian Army.

  • Kai Po Che! (2013, Abhishek Kapoor)

The movie, based on the novel ‘The Three Mistakes of My Life’ by Chetan Bhagat, captures the love for cricket against a backdrop of poverty, lack of resources, an earthquake and the Gujarat communal riots of 2002. The challenge of nurturing talent in the field of sports forms an important part of the plot.poster Iqbal

The success of Iqbal, a small budget movie, eventually led to a renewed interest in sports-based themes in Bollywood. While the focus so far has been on cricket and hockey, one hopes that badminton, lawn tennis, chess and other games would also get added to Bollywood’s repertoire soon enough. And, yes, the success of a biopic like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag could possibly spawn a string of flicks recreating the inspiring stories of many of our real world heroes and heroines on the silver screen!

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