Katrina Kaif is clearly the central character in Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bharat, released today, and yet Salman Khan occupies 90 percent of screen space in the main poster. He can be seen in five different avatars – from a boy of 18 to a man of 70. Kaif, on the other hand, has a small portrait occupying hardly any space, pushed aside to a corner.But this is all a ploy, because who wants to watch a film with a woman as the protagonist? So the producers have artfully placed Salman Kan’s face in all promos to lure audiences. * Slow clap for Bhai’s PR team*Bharat’s tagline “A journey of a man and a nation together” is rather misleading. It is actually the journey of a badass woman, whose back-story we have absolutely no idea about, from being clueless to discovering her true calling in life.Salman, Katrina Recreate Magic in Emotion-Loaded ‘Bharat’“Madam Sir” is what she is popularly called in the film, even though she has a name – Kumud. It is left to the audience to wonder why the film wasn’t named Madam Sir, and why the filmmakers instead chose to name the movie after a secondary character, Bharat.At a young age, Bharat was separated from his father and younger sister during the Partition – they were in Pakistan while Bharat in India (obvs). And since then the poor creature has been living with this burden of having to take care of his mother and other sister (both have hardly any dialogues in the film).To make ends meet, Bharat performs at the circus and is the star motorcycle stuntman. Disha Patani, who is on screen for about 15 minutes, is this attractive performer who fancies Bharat but we have no idea how she landed up in the circus!Anyway, so Bharat is caught in the middle of unemployment in India during the 60s. One day, he learns that oil has been found in the Middle East and the opportunist that he is, he goes looking for a job.It is during this hunt when Madam Sir meets with the holier-than-thou Bharat, who explains he doesn’t have a last name because his father named him after the country and so adding a name after or before Bharat would mean disrespecting the country.Taaliyaan taaliyaan!We are not told how she got here, but Madam Sir has a sarkari naukri. A responsible officer, she has been calling the shots at work.Smart and educated, Madam Sir doesn’t fall for Bharat’s sweet talk and cheap tricks to impress her and tells him off. She informs him that his display of knowledge or morality is unnecessary for the kind of job (miner) he’s looking for. Besides, he doesn’t seem particularly qualified for this position considering his history with circus performance.Yet, Madam Sir is forced to hire him because this is India in the 60s and far more patriarchal than it is today. A woman rejecting a man for a job barely means anything – he’s obviously going to find another way to get what he wants. And so from running around circuses on motorcycles, he’s suddenly working in the mines, despite Madam sir not wanting him there.With all the machismo he has in him, he tries to impress her. But Madam Sir is not naive. She is far from the stereotypical manic pixie dream girl whose sole purpose is to further the cause of a brooding man and make him a happier person as he sails through the adventures of life.Khan, in an interview, even said Madam Sir is Bharat’s “junoon” or obsession. But the woman doesn’t give two hoots about how in love/obsessed Bharat is with her because obvs she wasn’t born for that. Madam Sir was always her own. Nobody could own her.Bharat is the kind of creepy guy who you would always mistake for ‘such a sweetheart’. He stares at her and makes her uncomfortable (it was barely criminal in the 60s as it is barely criminal today) but doesn’t do anything outright creepy that could prompt Madam Sir to confront him. She obviously ignores him because what can a woman do in a situation such as this one? If she asks him to stop staring, she runs the risk of exciting him because which smitten man in Bollywood can keep it in his pants? She can’t really complain against him because patriarchy. Neither can she fire him because again, patriarchy.Whether it’s a saree with a high back or a shirt with formal trousers, soft curls loosely braided or left open, Madam Sir can pull anything off. And of course, entitled Bharat cannot tolerate not having her for himself. Whether he deserves her or not, is obviously not the point. Whether she might be interested in him or not, is definitely not the point. The man wants her and that’s it.So finally, when she sees no other way out, she falls in love with him and his showsha. When she asks him to marry her, he says no.So Bharat wants her only until she falls in love with him, and as soon as she does, he sweetly turns her down saying she would come in the way of his goals, which are to find his father and sister but nobody knows how.Dejected, Madam Sir agrees to be with him, despite him not wanting to marry her. At one point, he takes so much advantage of her benevolence that he asks her to quit her well-paying job and take care of his ration shop. And she makes that sacrifice. Why? Because nice Indian woman.Bharat, meanwhile, has bagged a job in the railways. He rejects the offer to work in the merchant navy – fights off pirates with a Bollywood performance and all. No, seriously.Madam Sir, the uber talented woman that she is (god knows what she studied), after her sarkari naukri and short stint at the ration shop, finds herself as the anchor and creative director of a news channel where she is allowed to start a campaign that she admits could personally benefit her.So she puts all her expertise and knowledge into creating a cross-border show that would reunite separated families from the Partition – all for who else but Bharat? And that’s ‘The End’.Check Out Early Reactions to Salman Khan’s Eid Release ‘Bharat’Eventually, the movie is about how an entitled Indian man did little apart from brooding and sulking but still got what he wanted (to be reunited with his fam) – of course by getting a woman to do all the dirty work, while making her believe she did it out of her own free will. God knows, this may even be a subtle form of abuse – using manipulation and patriarchy in a way that the woman herself feels like the goal of her life is to help the man she’s in love with, ignoring her own desires (we have no idea what they are).At a time when women in India are trying to emerge from the fringes to take up space in mainstream society, a film like Bharat is important, necessary, even refreshing. We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.