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Movie Review: ‘Sardar Udham’ (Amazon Prime)

When a biopic on revolutionary Udham Singh was announced, there was excitement that Vicky Kaushal would be seen in the protagonist’s role. With is now releasing on Amazon Prime after firstly set for a cinema release, it means a wider audience will be able to see the film. Shoojit Sircar’s directorship promises a film which would be nuanced and packed full of scenes that would be as memorable as Singh’s life itself, as told by the history books. But does it deliver on this expectation?

For those who aren’t aware of Udham Singh’s life story, he is known as a revolutionary who, after the massacre in Jallianwala Bagh of 1919, assassinated the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India, Michael O’Dwyer. While in custody, he adopted the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad which represented the three major religions of Punjab.

Sircar has, as expected, been excellent at representing this story with scenes which stand out. Although the film takes a little time at the beginning to get into, it eventually consumes you as a viewer whether you were aware of the historical accuracies or not. The execution of this time in history is commendable and awe-inspiring. Like a time-bomb, the story unravels and Udham Singh’s actions, his ultimate dream of revenge and psych in eventually committing to making that dream come true are all slowly told. And the intensity in which this happens has Sircar’s stamp all over it.

Kaushal as the main man is unbelievably brilliant. He fits into this character like a chameleon all through, even when the jump between the present and past may confuse the viewer if attention sways a bit. Kaushal shows in this role that he is more than capable at fitting into this role as easily as he could fit into Vicky of ‘Manmarziyaan’ (2018) or even Kamli of ‘Sanju’ (2018). His few scenes with Amol Parashar, who plays Bhagat Singh, are telling of how inspired he was by him and the bro-chemistry between the two actors is quite special – making you wish there was more of them together on screen. Banita Sandu comes in in a short role as Shruti and she does provide a love angle and freshness which, with a Bollywood viewing gaze, ticks the love story box. Aside from this, Shaun Scott as O’Dwyer is excellent too – especially in the scene where he tells Udham about him thinking a massacre was necessary. The tension between the two is there for the audience to cut with a knife. The rest of the ensemble cast are also very well placed at every point, giving a holistic feel to the story.

Interestingly, ‘Sardar Udham’ tracks are composed by Shantanu Moitra but the film could have done without a soundtrack really. Once again, the Bollywood gaze has but a soundtrack to the film but there aren’t any which have stood out to the point where the popularity of it has overtaken the film’s excitement itself. Aside from the soundtrack, the only one thing which could’ve been altered is definitely the running time which stands at well over two hours. Although the film consumes you, it maybe could’ve been slightly shorter.

To conclude, it has to be said that this is an out-and-out Vicky Kaushal film. Sircar’s portrayal of the story is to be applauded but it’s Kaushal’s performance that you take away with you. The last 40 minutes of the film, in particular, are harrowing and tragic, showing the aftermath of the Jallianwala massacre. Sircar has shot these scenes with Kaushal that they are literally heart-wrenching to watch. If you can sit through without a tear in your eye, you’re a better person than most.

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