There will always be Ye Dil Maange More for this biographical sketch in terms of what you know of the real hero, but director Vishnu Varadhan’s attempt is simply endearing
This film right here is a case of Better Late Than Never. Indeed, no film or any audio visual piece can ever fully justify and match up to the courage and valour of Param Veer Chakra awardee Captain Vikram Batra of 13 JAK Rifles, who was martyred in the Indo-Pak Kargil War of 1999. If a film even comes close, that’s a feat. Shershaah does exactly that, and passes with distinction marks. It is only an achievement of the film that you seek more of the man, and even if you blame the makers for not showing you enough, they should still smile for what they’ve shown fills you with pride.
Watch the trailer here:
The film is based on the life of war hero Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Vikram Batra (his codename was Shershaah), who was martyred in Kargil War 1999.
The story, screenplay and dialogues are penned by Sandeep Shrivastava. There is much to adore about Vikram Batra here. Right from his determined childhood to when he decides he will join the Indian Army, or the point when he decides to let go of his dream and join Merchant Navy instead to bouncing back when there’s no looking back. Ofcourse, to add to all of this, a dedicated love story that even in reality is giving goals to several out there.
The opening sequence puts you right in the battlefield during Kargil War when Capt. Vikram Batra is in command. You get goosebumps, also because you know for sure that the narrative will come back here later. Cut to a series of flashbacks- his childhood, his love life, his early days in the Army and his operations that made him win over his bosses. It is all shown effectively as segments keep playing back and forth and serves for an engaging watch. While the love story has the charm of an old school love of 90s, it is also fused with modern day adventure, giving you much relatable factor.
Along with establishing him as a character and showing his charming love story, the first half is devoted to Batra’s assignments and operations in the Indian Army just as he is on his first posting. It is shown what eventually led to Kargil War- the build up of it- and how Batra along with his subordinates played a role. While this is interesting as an unconventional narrative structure for a cinematic buff audience, it might add a boring element for the major section of the audience, for it is devoid of the so-called drama and the operations may also come across as unnecessary. But given the line of characterisation, the makers have justified their approach and the positioning of the film.
Rarely do you get films where you know the end and you are still engaged throughout. You know the man was martyred. But still, how the film reaches that point and how it shows the soldier closing his eyes forever with the image of Tricolour in his eyes fill your eyes with tears and heart with glowing pride. If this is not all, the makers further make you weep with the closing shots of the film with a heart wrenching song played in the backdrop. Even the strongest hearts will skip a beat.
Kargil War in the film begins at the interval point. The second half is about the Kargil War and it is where all the reservations about the film (if there are any) are put to rest. The film gets intensely gripping and once again, you witness the cinematic representation of the gruesome and the tough war. This is where you feel you are breathing with the man and watch things unfold without a blink. The first hand combat of Vikram Batra in Kargil War is choreographed wonderfully and you breathe heavily after it is over.
A lot has been said about Sidharth Malhotra as an actor. Probably after Kapoor and Sons, Sidharth has suited phenomenally well in a role. He has a given a performance in a manner that you can’t imagine anyone else playing the role. Ofcourse, it is also reminiscent of Abhishek Bachchan’s powerful portrayal of the same man in LOC Kargil. But given the nature of this film, Sidharth has so much scope to perform here. Boyish charm, innocence, determination, exuberance of a young man in his 20s and also the maturity to take decisions in extreme terrain in difficult situations of the war and finally giving it all to the nation- Sidharth becomes Vikram Batra in essence. You do not see Sidharth at all in the film.
Kiara Advani has a rather supporting role for the main lead, but she wins you over with her elegant screen presence. No doubt she is excelling with every film she is in and she surely has a long road ahead of her. Having said that, even she has been given shades to perform- she is bold, strong, has a say, she is vulnerable and even fragile. Kiara makes sure she shines in every one.
Shiv Panditt is also very good as a colleague of Vikram Batra. He has his moments and performs in a way that you will remember him much after the film has released. Nikitin Dheer also has his moments and he performs ably. Shataf Figar lends an able hand giving the much needed strength to the protagonist. Abhiroy Cheema suits impeccably in the role of an Army officer. You wonder if he is a real officer.
Sahil Vaid has a small role but he brings in believability with his presence.
Music is soulful and soothing. The songs live up to the mood of the film nicely. The last song in the film Tu Menu Chhad Jaana is so awesome that you will find yourself shedding tears all while it is being played. The background score by John Stewart Eduri is also extravagant and energizing. The flavour of the film comes alive and loud because of how score is rightly placed and bound in the film.
Cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi is also vibrant. The feel of the film is real, majorly because the film is shot in Kargil on real locations. The action is raw and gruelling. You see the actual mountains and rocks and that the soldiers are actually combating in the tough terrains. It is also very important to commend the camera because it is not an easy film to shoot and eventually edit. So many shots of a duration even less than second to give you the thrill- observe how camera moves and presents things to you and you’ll be filled with amazement. The production design by Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty also is intelligently crafted. Be it the challenging or picturesque locations of Kashmir or sweet cozy locations of Punjab or the indoors- it is all thoughtfully done, making you feel the realism.
Editing by A. Sreekar Prasad is also noteworthy in how the shots have been joined to make it into a scene. It is commendable how such small tiny shots have been carefully picked and edited for the larger scheme of things. Also, how sequences are placed one after the other also makes the film worthier.
It is a film that every Indian must watch. There are glitches for sure. But the overall piece has come out fantastic. A young man in his early 20s- a romantic and filmy at heart (as his lady love called him) and a true patriot- Vikram Batra deserves all the salutes.