- Release Date: 12/08/2021
- Platform: Amazon Prime Video
- Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani, Shiv Panditt, Sahil Vaid, Pranay Pachauri
- Director: Vishnu Vardhan
Bollywood doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to making biopics. When I learned that a biopic on the life and exploits of Amar Shaheed Captain Vikram Batra was on its way and that Sidharth Malhotra would be playing the character, I was extremely worried about how the film would turn out. The fact that Dharma Productions was producing it and the kind of fluff that they generally put in their material made me even more skeptical.
Sidharth Malhotra acted well in just one film out of all the films that have been a part of. The fact was also that he invariably plays himself in every film and has shown almost nothing in terms of variation and disappearing behind the skin of a character. Hence I was not excited about him playing the character of Amar Shaheed Captain Vikram Batra that had been tarnished once before by Abhishek Bachchan in an extremely irritating rendition in JP Dutta’s failed and flawed magnum opus LOC: Kargil. With all this and a lot more in mind, I sat to watch Shershaah on prime videos.
Intriguing, compact, and investing screenplay
The first aspect of the film that grabbed my attention was its proficient storytelling. The film starts smack in the middle of the action where we are quickly made aware that Vikram Batra (Sidharth Malhotra) and his team are staring at the moment of truth in the battle. Whether they will win or lose the battle will be determined by a singular decision. This decision lies with Vikram. The danger of moving out of their cover is immense as is documented by a single line of dialogue from a fellow soldier of his. Vikram takes a moment and then charges forward with a grenade in his hand and the film cuts away thereby keeping the suspense of what happens next. This was a brief but poignant opening to a film that instilled the hook in me straight away.
Sandeep Shrivastava, who wrote the screenplay of the film, keeps up the momentum that he builds in the opening sequence throughout the film. The story frequently shifts between different stages in Vikram’s life to create an understandable portrait of the man. Aspects of his life like his passion for the army, his short but sweet romance with Dimple Cheema (Kiara Advani), and the many counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir that he took part in before landing upon point 4875 in Kargil are documented throughout the film. All these aspects of the film feel breezy and are approached with such conviction and efficiency that none of it feels forced or boring at any point in time.
Sidharth Malhotra’s sensational rendering of the war hero
I find it hard to concede but Sidharth Malhotra is truly the best thing about this film. The character of Amar Shaheed Captain Vikram Batra was inherently flamboyant as was made obvious from the videos and accounts of the men and women who knew him. That is exactly what we get from Sidharth who seems to have understood the beat of the character and grasped it as his life depended on it. There are subtle voice modulations, mannerisms, and give and take between him and different characters that feel organic and unscripted. Nothing could have worked better for the character than this feel that Sidharth was able to bring to it. I was pleasantly surprised by the kind of gusto and physicality that Sidharth brought to the combat sequences and this not only elevated his act but also added to the dramatic weight that came with the many life-threatening situations that the character faced before making the supreme sacrifice for his motherland. If there was no sense of physicality and realism in his rendering of the action then these sequences would never have the kind of tension and thrill that they did. The impact was evident even on the small screen. It would have certainly generated roars in the theaters.
Scintillating action sequences that evoke emotions
Action sequences are at their best when they are able to evoke drama, tension, thrill, and genuine human emotions. That is the case here. Be it the counter-terrorism operations in the valley or the final battle atop point 4875, the action of Shershaah maintains the kind of energy and pulsating power that doesn’t let the viewer breathe easy or get disinterested. Major characters are always in danger and many of them die horribly. Those who followed the 1999 Kargil War closely would know these fallen heroes by names but I believe that most of the young generation now will not know about them. For them, many of these deaths will come as shocks. All the actors did most of their own stunts and at a height that was atleast close to what the actual soldiers fought the war on. Hence you get the actual feel of the predicament that our men were in. CGI was sparingly used and that helps in infusing a sense of realism and dread in the action sequences rendering them evocative and emotionally draining.
For once a love story in a war film that isn’t forced
The romance between Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani is short and sweet. The track also has some bearing on the story as it, in many ways, shapes the life and actions of the titular character. The chemistry between the two actors feels organic and real. There isn’t anything here that feels odd or overly melodramatic. While a love story in most war films feels like nothing more than a drag on the central narrative, the one here works and comes as a welcome break from the loud, thrilling and physical action sequences of the film.
Shershaah is a well-made and sincere film that will appeal to every Indian. It brings back memories of a war that was thrust on us by a cowardly and conniving enemy. The film also honestly documents the mammoth price that the nation had to pay in the form of youthful lives and dreams lost to the shroud of death to safeguard its lands and push back the invaders. This is the kind of film that the youth of today need to be served so that they get an idea of the price that their predecessors had to pay for the freedom that they enjoy today. We need to remember Amar Shaheed Captain Vikram Batra before we chant slogans in favor of terrorists and murderers in our university campuses. For all this and more, I loved Shershaah and I feel that it is a must-watch for every Indian.
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