The first few minutes of the movie Sultan are sheer madness. The deafening cheers in the theatre make it hard to focus on what unfolds on the screen. It was no different from what usually happens in front of the screen for a Salman Khan movie, but what happened behind was definitely a break from the usual, or as Indian Express movie critic Shubhra Gupta pointed out, “Salman breaking free from bhai-giri bondage”.
Sports biopics have been criticised for the misrepresentation of the game on the screen. It’s easy for the actors to get in shape for the role, but giving shape to the role is what counts, especially in movies like Sultan.
Also read: Sultan Review
The challenge was a stiff one for someone like Salman. Yes, he has a decent physique and has inspired plenty to stay in shape in the industry, but the demands and techniques of wrestling are not as easy as ‘Sultan’ pulls them off – first in a tiny ‘langot’ in the ‘akhada’ then in proper gear on the mat. Anushka Sharma was the real talking point when it comes to executing the moves but we will come to her later.
Watch: Salman Khan’s ‘Sultan slam’
The highlight of the movie, for me, was the way Salman delivered the ‘Sultan slam’. So it started with the ‘German Suplex’ – something which we have seen WWE stars Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar enthrall the spectators with numerous times – and ended with the drop that pinned the opponent.
This is where some real core training comes into play. Lifting an opponent, on the shoulders, is no ordinary feat and then crushing him flat on the mat, akhada in some cases, requires a lot of core play. Wrestling comes across as a sport filled with moves, slams and techniques but the role of power, and core, is very crucial in the execution bit. Not to forget a strong lower back.
WATCH VIDEO: Salman Khan’s Sultan Gets Rave Audience Reviews
Also read: Sultan box-office collections
So when Salman fools around on the mud, or on the mat in MMA style of wrestling towards the latter half of the movie, he is in a crouched position most of the time. The pokes, grabs and pushes – all of them are done with a slightly bent position, putting a lot of pressure on the back. It’s normal for an athlete to do this, but Salman would have required a lot of conditioning to maintain the posture.
Salman’s every ‘Sultan slam’ was cheered aggressively right through the movie but little attention was paid towards what Arfa (Anushka) exhibited on the mud, and then on the mat. In the earlier half, she was up against male opponents and her one-leg grab and twist was a treat to watch. The ease with which she got into position, grabbed the leg and then twisted the opponent, a man, before pinning him flat on the ground seemed effortless.
The moves improved on the mat, when she was in Indian colours for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games which followed. So we saw the rolls, the sharp turns, the agile grabs and the finishing maneuvers.
Watch: Salman Khan’s desi wrestling
Anushka, for starters, looked in terrific shape and the neatness in her moves showed the kind of effort she would have put in to pull them off. Yes, actors, unlike professional wrestlers, take several takes to get it right but then they, unlike wrestlers, do this only for a movie.
Indian cinema is inclining towards sports now, with plenty of biopics lined up and in the pipeline, and the Sultan cast has set a benchmark for others to follow – get real for reel magic to grip the audience.