Veer, a patriot from the Pindhari warrior clan in the 1850s, falls in love with the rival clan's daughter, Princess Yashodhara. But before he can fulfil his love story, he must fulfil his pledge to his motherland, fighting its enemies -- internal and external -- with cudgel and sword.
Now no one's doubting the fact that Salman Khan's a thoroughbred veer. For, it does take a whole lot of bravado to pick up a blast from the buried past and present it an age when everyone is determined to tell a brand new story in Bollywood. Of course, films like Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar did manage to strike a chord with the newbie viewers too, but they were more like exceptions to the rule. By and large, the scheming Brits and their grab-India story has been confined to the creative bin when it comes to modern Indian cinema, song and literature.
Hence the importance of Salman Khan's Veer which celebrates a kind of cinema that might soon be extinct in desi film lore. No one, just no one, would dare to flaunt a hero who claws off 'paanch sair ghost' (five Kgs of flesh) from his opponent's body or pulls out his intestines with utmost glee! This is merely some of the minor dare devilry our Veer indulges in, apart from dancing with a fractured leg, flinging broaches through fast-moving trains, pulling off hands in a handshake and pledging to fob off entire armies with fist and sword alone.
But hey, what can you do with a larger-than-life character when he doesn't have a larger-than-life cause spelled out for him? You simply follow him through his chaotic ramblings as he desperately tries to look for a raison d' etre in the turbulent times (1857). We never really get to know what this brave Pindhari warrior actually wants. Does he want to avenge his daddy's (Mithun Chakraborty) humiliation at the hands of the deceitful king (Jackie Shroff) who duped the warrior tribe of its land? Does he want to put an end to the soul-killing British Raj? Or does he simply want to sing and dance with the pretty princess (Zarine Khan), who also happens to be his enemy's daughter?
Well, you can savour the larger-than-life canvas, for some time at least. Periodically, you can enjoy the lavish expanse of this epic which boasts of some fine cinematography (Gopal Shah) and a string of adrenaline-pumping action sequences (Tinu Verma). You can also sound the mandatory wolf whistles on Salman's unabashed beefcake appeal that spills over in every frame of the film. Intermittently, you can also applaud him for trying his best to create a hero out of this ill-conceived, cardboard cut-out that seems to hobnob between Dharmendra's Dharam Veer and Russel Crowe's Gladiator. But after that, there's nothing left to hold your attention in this prolonged misadventure that loses a lot due to a tardy screenplay, a headless script and an old-fashioned direction.
Guess it's time for a fine actor like Salman Khan too to hop onto the current Indian avant garde bandwagon and do the different (read topical, a typical) samba.
A word about
Performances: Salman Khan is the show stopper here, filling every frame with his well-toned physique, his luminous eyes, his flowing hair and his rippling muscles. More importantly, he pitches in a riveting performance, despite the cliched characterisation of the period warrior. Newcomer Zarine Khan is unimpressive, while veterans like Mithun and Jackie are just about average.
Story: Salman Khan has been credited as the story writer of the film. Sadly, this one's not quite the debut he would have liked, because the story is the weakest link, after the direction.
Dialogue: Completely moth-balled.
Music: Sajid-Wajid and Gulzar have just one winner: Surilee ankhiyon wale.
Cinematography: Gopal Shah creates large expansive battle sequences and scores in the pastoral idyll too, splashing his canvas with a riot of desert colours.
Action: Tinnu Verma pumps up the adrenalin with his well-executed horse and sword play.
Styling: Salman looks cool in all three get-ups: as the rustic, the warrior and the burra sahib.
Inspiration: While the warrior look is a blend of Troy, Conan the Barbarian and Gladiator, the story is ostensibly inspired by the 1962 swashbuckler's tale, Taras Bulba, where Tony Curtis essayed Salman's role to Yul Bryner's Mithun.