Directed by Shoojit Sircar, this is one of the most unconventional biopics that you would have seen, filling you with pride in almost every scene
Udham Singh: So, you don’t think it was brutal, Sir?
Michael O’Dwyer: It was sufficient. He (General Dyer) was faced with a seditious mob. He created fear and it was sufficient.
How do you review a film where just one sequence overpowers the entire film? The April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre sequence is shown with such power and beauty and you will be left horrified at the end of it. There are chances that even the strongest souls will shed tears. There are chances that you may feel the need to stop the film midway, before resuming it. Sardar Udham is a film that will make you stand up right away and salute the people yet again, who sacrificed their lives for the country. And not just that, this film will also make you think- what did we do for them?
Watch the trailer here:
The film tells the tale of the 20 year old boy Udham Singh (Vicky Kaushal) who decided to hit back at the idea of British imperialism after having witnessed the harsh brutalities by its hands at Jallianwala Bagh. Keeping the fire alive in his heart for the next 21 years, he assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, the then Governor General of Punjab, who ordered General Reginald Dyer to open fire at the gathering.
The screenplay is written by Shubendu Bhattacharya and Ritesh Shah with dialogues by Ritesh Shah. It’s debatable as to how the screenplay actually is. Unconventional? Absolutely. Likeable? May be not. The non-linear structure of the film (aided by careful editing) at times makes it difficult for the viewers to grasp the actual sequence of events. Atleast, for the casual cinema viewers, this structure will prove to be a hindrance. But for a section, this will work extremely well. For someone who is into cinema and likes films with a touch of distinct flavour, this film here is a phenomenal treat.
Right in first 10mins of the film, you have the assassination. You would ask- what will happen for the entire runtime now? Well, the narrative doesn’t disappoint. The film covers almost everything that you need to know about Shaheed Udham Singh’s laborious journey into achieving his target. His early young life, his transformation, his political ideas, Bhagat Singh’s influence on him, his camaraderie with Bhagat Singh, his odd jobs that he took for several years to survive, his plans and strategies to reach to Dwyer, and finally being able to shoot him. It is all there, ofcourse not in this exact order. The film many a times, travels back and forth in time, in a way testing you as an audience. If the audience is sharp and smart, the film is a lovely affair. The film also requires you to be in a zone and surrender completely to its aura to be able to comprehend. Why this happens is also for the realisation of how Udham Singh lived his life. His idea of feeling for his country stemmed more strongly from his inner transformation and grief rather than the loud patriotic notion of simply keeping Britishers at bay. That’s how the film is.
The story also clears a general misconception of people believing that he assassinated Dwyer for revenge. The ideology behind killing him was always clear in Udham Singh’s mind, and the makers bring that out. At no point does the film make Udham Singh mouth or express hate speech against British. A fitting tribute hence to the man, the film celebrates the great man, without demeaning any one country or a person. Things are shown fair and that’s why it carves a niche for itself.
There are scenes and dialogues that wrench you right till the core. The dialogues that talk of religious unity among the revolutionaries, or when Udham Singh expresses his will to be remembered as a revolutionary, or the conversations between Dwyer and Dyer, or Dwyer and Dyer’s trial just before the end credits. These scenes shock you. The film is engaging allowing you to discover Udham Singh’s journey up close. There is a dialogue in the film that Dwyer says to Dyer ordering him for the shoot- Punishment of itself is not necessarily a deterrent. But if the punishment is such that it creates a fear of the punishment, then that would be of a great practical value. We need to set an example. Just as you hear this, a chill runs down your spine.
The weak point of the film however is that it is too long and easily some portions could be chopped off. Giving the makers the liberty of making the audience absorb certain feelings, it still remains a point that could be taken care of. Also, the non-linear structure although renders a distinct style to filmmaking approach, it may not go down well with the majority audiences.
If Vicky Kaushal could go home with a National Award for Uri: The Surgical Strike, chances are high that he may get to lift the trophy again for this one. He is simply brilliant and splendid. Right from the time he is shown to be 20 years old to how his journey progresses and the transformations we see in his body and body language, is unmatched. You see him blowing life in the character in every scene of his. Hats off to him. His graph as an actor is on a constant rise.
Shaun Scott as Dwyer is good and because you associate one personality with him, his act becomes all the way more evil. Kristy Averton is very good in a strong supporting role. Amol Parasher as Bhagat Singh is also impactful. You see a different side to Bhagat Singh here, and that has been brought out effectively by Parasher.
The score by Shantanu Moitra is one of the strongest highlights of the film. It is such a strong score all through the film that despite the length of the film or other minor flaws, you are actively immersed in the film. The score during the emotional scenes gives you goosebumps and chokes you.
Cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay is simply flawless. There are various time zones within the period era. The usage of orange and blue for warm and cool respectively has been done with accurate precision. These lights and colours give the film more meaning and scope to understand more than what is outrightly conveyed. Production design by Mansi Dhruv Mehta and Dmitri Malich deserves standing ovation. The sets and the locations made to look of the time when the story is set are so real that you see yourself getting transported to that time. Be in London or Russia or Amritsar, it is all so perfectly done that never for a minute do you see the characters in a modern day setup. You start believing that this is how the world even today looks like. Incredible work done. Kudos to costumes by Veera Kapur Ee for giving the film a feel that is hard to ignore or forget.
Editing by Chandrashekhar Prajapati also is one of the most noticeable features of the film. The film has it all if you think of the sequences after the film has ended. You can give it a sequence in your head. But the film doesn’t follow the chronology. It takes you to important events, shows what happened and mostly takes you back at what lead to the happening. This is different and unique and biopics haven’t been seen to follow this. Hence it comes across as totally new. But is a welcome approach for sure.
A great film. A great idea. A great story. A great man. Nobody in India should miss this film.