‘Good thoughts, good words, good deeds,’ reminds father Bomi Bulsara (Ace Bhatti) to his 20-something buck-toothed son Farrokh (Rami Malek) in their London home, the family having migrated from Zanzibar a half decade earlier.
That was in 1970, working as a baggage handler at Heathrow, and in the earlier moments of the film. Cut to 1975 – by now he’s the lead singer of the iconic rock band, ‘Queen’, having hooked up with a lead guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. More importantly, he’s christened himself Freddie Mercury.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which is a song from the 1975 album, ‘A Night at the Opera’, attempts to move away from the two documentaries made so far on the mercurial singer – one of rock-and-roll’s greatest ever. The film traces the enigmatic personality’s life and career, from 1970 to 1985, and as such, eschews any backstory of Farrokh’s childhood, however significant it might have been for his fans, which were legion. It depicts the trials and tribulations with his bandmates and with his ladylove, Mary (Lucy Boynton), whom he loved dearly throughout his life, despite discovering his sexual identity. What is heartening, though, is his Zoroastrian roots and the motif of good thoughts, words and deeds, especially the latter, which recur throughout the two-hour plus film. Missing too is the creative process behind his songs.
But, despite a few factual inaccuracies, which are more by way of inconsistencies in timelines (eg., he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, but the film’s timeline has it in 1985, just before the Live Aid concert), Rami Malek’s transformation of Mercury just before the interval is astounding; and his portrayal and moves are unerring, especially the way he holds the mike, though one gets the unnervy feeling that Freddie wasn’t as bucktoothed as shown in the film – Malek clearly struggling to make lips meet (pun intended).
The most resonant part of the film is in its closing moments, director Bryan Singer bringing to life Queen’s 20-minute presence on stage during Live Aid, with ‘We will rock you’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’ (the source of Lady Gaga’s moniker), etc. “We made MTV famous”, “I’m a musical prostitute”, the crooner says at various points in the film. No matter what, the fact, unarguably, is that the one-time loader was a leader and ‘he did, he did rock us’. Queen, indeed, was King!