The wrestling that made me, broke me – A Sultan Review

Sultan Poster

Where most Western sports movies rush through the hero’s fall from grace before he rises up to glory again, this Bollywood movie has the time to take you through the entire journey from rising underdog, to fallen hero, to phoenix from the ashes. While this may sound like a lot to take in, Sultan makes it all work, really, really, well.

Sultan is the story of Sultan Ali Khan, an average Joe with a talent for kite running. One day while chasing a kite runs into the fiery and beautiful Aarfa, and he’s soon drawn into the world of competitive wrestling.

The Good

  • Gets into some incredibly complex issues in India (such as the heavy bias towards sons over daughters in Indian families, and how men expect women to act in Indian society)
  • Is an emotionally deep film (and the emotions don’t only revolve around sport, but around numerous themes such as family, love, and friendship)
  • Great performances from the lead and supporting actors (Salman Khan, who plays Sultan, has great range in this film)
  • First half of the story is a very dramatic tale with a couple of unexpected turns
  • Extremely engaging despite it’s almost 3 hour run time
  • It’s beautifully shot

The OK

  • The second half of the story is fairly predictable, but is elevated by the performances of those involved
  • I’m not a huge MMA fan, but I’m sure there’s some inconsistencies regarding the MMA rules in the second half of the film
  • MMA choreography was more flashy than realistic
  • Some cultural stuff that non-Indian folks won’t get (I only recognised some elements because I’ve visited India a couple of times and my Mum has told me about her life growing up there)
  • Some of the Bollywood numbers…

The Bad

  • Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Final Thoughts

You know how they say don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, I saw the poster for this and thought “Hey, that looks pretty cool”, so I went and watched it. This is the second time I’ve watched a Bollywood film at our local cinema, and it’s the second time I’ve been really surprised by the quality of films that India is producing.

Sultan is part sports movie, part romance, part family drama, and it all comes together amazingly well. There were quite a few scenes where I teared up (I may cry fairly easily, but the entire cinema was sniffing and reaching for something to dry their eyes with), and the fight scenes are all beautifully put together, even if they put style over accuracy. I cannot leave out the ups and downs of Sultan’s relationship with Aarfa, which also adds greatly to the sports story, while being a very engaging romance story itself.

Overall, Sultan is a much better film than I expected, and (almost) never dragged despite its 3 hour run time. There are some fairly predictable elements in this movie (particularly in the second half) but I cannot recommend this movie enough. If you are in the mood to check out something different but are usually put off by Bollywood films, be sure to give Sultan a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised.


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