Film review: Warning! Salman Khan’s Sultan only suitable for diehard fans

A flimsy storyline and lingering shots of Salman Khan are all that the sports drama has to offer. It doesn't help that the 50-year-old actor cannot pull off the part of a man half his age.

In Sultan, Salman Khan portrays a has-been wrestler who returns to the ring in a bid revive his glory days as an international champion. Courtesy Yash Raj Films
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Director: Ali Abbas Zafar

Starring: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Randeep Hooda

Two stars

Sultan gives Salman Khan's most fervent fans many reasons to rejoice: he is shirtless for a large part of the 170 minutes of the film's run time, and keeps breaking out into silly dance moves to any number of catchy songs.

For the rest of us, however, Sultan is a movie that requires some serious suspension of disbelief. For a film that was aggressively marketed as the awe-inspiring journey of a wrestler – albeit fictional – Sultan has surprisingly little of the sport, at least for the first 90 minutes, and it's only the second half that offers some serious edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting wrestling action, somewhat redeeming itself.

The 50-year-old Khan portrays Sultan, a fun-loving twentysomething from a small town in Haryana. He runs into Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) an Olympics aspirant and it is love at first sight.

But she rejects him, calling him a directionless loser, which prompts his transformation into a state-level wrestling champion in a matter of weeks. This greatly helps change her mind, and they get married. Then a tragedy causes them to separate, but not before they’ve enjoyed a couple of glory-filled, international championship-winning years.

Fast-forward 20 years, and he is a broken shell of a man, his favourite sport long forgotten, until a desperate executive, who is bleeding money into a championship he is trying to promote in India, urges him to win back everything he has lost.

Straight off the bat, it is almost impossible for Khan to convincingly pull off the part of a man less than half his age. His best friend looks young enough to be his son, and watching Khan romance an actress half his age makes you squirm in embarrassment.

Ali Abbas Zafar, the film’s director and writer, wants us to buy into the premise that Sultan defeats highly trained wrestlers – after a mere six weeks of training. It’s as if the director couldn’t be bothered with even a half-hearted attempt to make the story seem plausible, instead banking on Khan’s star power and the blind adulation of his fans.

The film is peppered with plenty of lingering close-ups of Khan slapping his thighs and bulging biceps, or simply staring into the camera with intense knitted brows, all ostensibly to distract viewers from the obvious lack of depth in the characters and plot. Everything else is a prop, from leading lady Sharma to India’s age-old love affair with wrestling and Randeep Hooda as Sultan’s (better-looking and more talented) coach.

If you’re not a Salman Khan fan, give this Eid party a miss.