Bollywood actor Salman Khan was silent when massive protests by farmers swept India, but he showed no such restraint on the big screen as he turned into a stoic activist in his latest film ‘Antim: The Final Truth’.
Khan plays a scrupulous Sikh cop Rajveer Singh who makes being woke his biggest currency in this entertainer. The actor takes one for the farmers’ team here and the entire crew of this film is tilling hard to grow something substantial here.
The movie opens on a grim note where an impoverished farmer and faded wrestling champion’s (Sachin Khedekar) land is annexed by a local politician, and they are smoked out of their own territory. It’s a perfunctory nod to the farmers’ crisis and migrant labour issues in India. His 20-something youthful son Rahul (Aayush Sharma), with a fire in his belly, witnesses the injustices done to his hapless family and he is pushed to a world of crime and grime by local politicians/thugs.
‘Rahuliya’ channels his inner angry young man avatar with a ferocity and turns into a trigger-happy criminal, much to his parent’s dismay. They disown him, but he ends up on Rajveer’s radar.
For the first time in a long time, superstar Khan exercises tremendous amount of restraint on screen. His bravado and machismo are reined in, until the climax. But there was no such gag order on Rahuliya who becomes a loose cannon right from the word go and hurtles at a rapid pace to become a corrupt gangster and extortionist.
If you can ignore the deliberate browning of his skin, Sharma comes across as earnest in his career’s first dark role. The portions where this wayward ticking bomb is yearning for his family’s approval hits home, but the parts where he turns into a senseless killing machine calls for suspension of disbelief.
The ease with which he rises to the ranks of dreaded criminals is dizzying, but the speed with which he’s let off by the cops led by Khan in Khakhi is more mind-boggling.
Khan seems to be running a banana republic of a police station where criminals are arrested but are freed rapidly because their misdeeds are backed by powerful politicians. The systemic injustices may be a reality in the times we live in, but ‘Antim: The Final Truth’ bludgeons it home in the least subtle manner.
Having said that, nobody buys a ticket for a Salman Khan film for a crash course in subtlety. Everything in this film is quite on-the-nose. Monologues on the plights of toothless farmers, the low prices on their produce, and migrant labourers whose wages are extracted by evil extortionists all find a berth in this bombastic film. But is it entertaining? In parts it is fun to watch because you buy into their loud sloganeering and hyper-activism.
It also helps that Khan and his discovery Sharma also take off their shirts to reveal bronzed torsos before launching into some socially-charged inequity tirade.
Maximum time and love are being showered on Sharma’s character, so Khan’s fans may have to wait a bit before getting to see him in heroic form. But when he does switch on the charm, it sticks. Plus, Khan looks well-preserved and can still rock the shirtless scenes.
All the one-liners usually reserved for Khan has been palmed off to Sharma to shine. This movie seems to have been designed for the young actor to bloom. A few of those lines land but most are written to evoke claps and whistles and end up sliding into nothingness. Be warned that several burning issues such as rape and violence against women are also woven into the bloated narrative.
Director Mahesh Manjrekar as a drunk former small-time criminal is passable, but Khedekar’s (Sharma’s principled father) grief seems more genuine. Actress Mahima Makwana is effective in her part of a fierce woman some of the twists will remind you of an ‘80s Bollywood melodrama. All emotions and violence in this film are exaggerated and heightened, but this is not an unbearable movie. If you are willing to tolerate this film’s obvious need to be woke and loud, you may even enjoy the good vs evil drama.
Film: ‘Antim: The Final Truth’
Director: Mahesh Manjrekar
Cast: Salman Khan, Aayush Sharma, Sachin Khedekar, Mahima Makwana
Stars: 2.5 out of 5