Sardar Udham Review: Vicky Kaushal-Shoojit Sircar bring haunting memories of Jallianwala Bagh massacre in a visual spectacle


Film: Sardar Udham 

Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Shawn Scott, Amol Parashar, Banita Sandhu, Kirsty Averton, Andrew Havill

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Story By: Shubendu Bhattacharya 

Streaming platform: Amazon Prime Video

Duration: 2 hours 42 minutes

Rating: 3.5 Moons

“Freedom is my birthright and fighting for freedom is no crime,” asserts Ram Mohammad Singh Azad also known as Udham Singh as he defends himself in court in London after assassinating Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, who served British India between 1913 and 1919. A member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), Udham’s sole mission was to shoot O’Dwyer dead to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that changed the course of history forever. 

Joining Shoojit Sircar in telling the revolutionary’s story is Vicky Kaushal. In 2 hours 42 minutes, we are taken on a journey with a young Udham, aka Sher Singh, Ude Singh and Frank Brazil. Shoojit takes us straight to Punjab where Udham has been released from jail. His aim is crystal clear – the cold-blooded assassination of O’Dwyer. For which, Udham must travel to London via the USSR.  This is the basic story. The rest of the film orbits around Udham’s friendship with Bhagat Singh (Amol Parashar), his incomplete love story with Reshma (Banita Sandhu) and under what circumstances he planned O’Dwyer’s assassination.  

It’s directed by National Award winner Shoojit, so don’t expect mirch-masala and melodrama. The film is inspired by a real-life event, tremors of which can still be felt in the streets of Amritsar. Shoojit, very ably, balances human emotions, facts and creative liberty without compromising on any. Bollywood audiences used to watching patriotic films or biopics of freedom fighters that are loud in music, dialogues and narrative will be in for a surprise. Sardar Udham doesn’t resort to any of the above. Cutting a clear picture of the incidents that happened in the revolutionary’s life, Shoojit delivers what is promised – a biopic of an unsung hero. Sans the floss and gloss. 

National Award cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay breathes life into Sardar Udham with his camera and vision. He recreates the vintage vibe of London masterfully. Every scene is haunting yet beautiful. The outer silence, the inner chaos and the intensity of a particular sequence are translated on screen like magic. Especially the entire Jallianwala Bagh massacre sequence. It is not only beautifully shot, but it is also a well-written and executed portion. 

Vicky gets into the skin of Udham Singh effortlessly and his transformation is commendable. In Uri, Vicky was ‘high’ on ‘josh’ whereas in Sardar Udham, he is borderline aggressive but also has a soft side that shows in the last hour of the film. Toughened by circumstances and injustices by the British, Udham’s behaviour underwent a major change post the massacre and Vicky understood it well. He has managed to bring out several shades of Udham Singh.

Amol Parashar, who plays Bhagat Singh, has limited scope. He does a good job in the few scenes he has got. Banita Sandhu aka Reshma, a mute girl who loves Udham, is also underutilised. Shawn Scott gets decent screen time as Michael O’Dwyer. British actor Andrew Havill as Reginald Dyer has nothing much to do. Kirsty Averton has a few scenes but she fails to leave an impact. For the most part, while Sardar Udham will keep you busy with its narrative, the major drawback of the film is its duration. Sequences like the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and Udham’s interrogation, though beautifully shot, are way too long and get repetitive. 

The hero of the story is Shubendu Bhattacharya, the writer. Keeping all the Bollywood masala meant for chest-thumping patriotic films aside, Shubendu allows Udham Singh and his passion for freedom to shine. He has written the screenplay with Ritesh Shah and they do an excellent job together. Shoojit and Vicky have put their blood and sweat together to bring alive the story of the unsung hero. And to think Shoojit originally intended to make this biopic with Irrfan… gives Sardar Udham 3.5 Moons

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