When a film is cliched, predictable, has a weak storyline, not so great music…..we would think the movie is going to tank.

But….despite all this, Bharat is a winner. It’s the Sallu formula of simple, straightforward, give the audience a bit of everything and keep it family oriented- and it works.

Bharat is the story of Salman Khan taking us on a Forest Gump- like journey, from pre independence to 2010. It’s the story of a family that has to flee during partition and how that shapes Bharat, a simple man who believes he must do the last thing that his father says to him as he gets separated on the train to India from Lahore on the fateful partition day of 15th August. And what follows is a medley of snapshots of how his life moves forward through the decades which are personified through incidents or personalities of those eras bringing those times to life and thus sort of taking us through how India moves from 1947 to 2010.

The storyline is sketchy, but what holds it together is the earnestness and sincerity of all the characters starting with Bharat as a kid to becoming Bharat/Sallu who just has an undeniable likability in his simple-ness. Of course Sallu is Sallu and that doesn’t change whether he is playing any character and that’s what audiences still fill theatres to watch.

Katrina Kaif plays Kumud, the feisty, modern woman who is clearly way more intelligent and successful than Bharat but loves him and will go to the end of the world for him. The chemistry between Salman and Katrina is always good, but in this film it really goes beyond any of their earlier films. They play off one another very naturally and the moments between them are really sweet. Katrina also seems to mature as an actor and with her curly hair and ethnic sarees, looks really different from her Barbie doll looks in other films and carries the look and character very convincingly.

The other character that is really significant is that of Bharat’s friend Vilayati- played by Sunil Grover, who is superb. This character is part of Bharat’s entire journey and has been really well written and with Grover’s superb acting, gains a serious significance, instead of becoming the usual side kick to the main role.

Another character which remains with you is that of Bharat’s father, the utterly handsome Jackie Shroff in a cameo. Uff….his gentle eyes and smile….this man just continues to charm. And while his screen time is limited, his presence and significance in Bharat’s life makes him loom large through the film.

There are many other strong actors like Tabu (who plays his long lost sister), Sonali Kulkarni (who plays his mother- she really should stop these mom roles), Kumud Mishra as the chacha, Disha Patani (who looks stunning) and many others who all clearly chose to take on really tiny roles in this heavy weight film for its brand rather than the meatiness of their parts. But each one had a place and brought moments of mirth, pathos and sentimentality that somehow make Bharat very watchable.

I want to make a special mention of the two boys who play Bharat and Vilayati as young kids- really good and their characterization of what the two will become as adults is spot on.

Unlike other Sallu films, the music isn’t one of the high points, but the dances work and Disha Patani and Katrina add the mandated sizzle.

So, if we look at all aspects of the film as separate entities, it’s all just really just about ok-ish, but together it all works. As we leave the theatre, one gentleman in the lift says…mazaa aa gaya, picture 200 crore to karegi hi karegi. That’s the magic formula of Salman Khan’s movies….from seeti’s in the front benches to old uncles in the club seats, the movie has a wholesomeness which appeals to wide range of folks.

So this Eid release definitely belongs to Salman Khan. He won’t be refunding money to his backers this time.