Guwahati: Actors Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani are back on the screen with their just-released film Shershaah. The biographical war drama, directed by noted south film director Vishnuvaradhan, narrates the life story of Captain Batra and how he led the charge of his troops during the 1999 Kargil war. He was given the highest wartime gallantry award Param Vir Chakra posthumously. The film has a tribute to all the war heroes. Sidharth as Vikram Batra has impressed the viewers who have flooded the internet with compliments. From his physical training to perfectly showing various emotions on the screen, the actor has earned many brownie points from the viewers.
Right before Lt Vikram Batra boards the bus from Chandigarh, he makes a promise to Dimple. He will return home and spend the next 40 years with ‘Mrs Batra’. It is precisely at this moment that you hear your heart break into a million pieces. Perhaps louder than the shelling at LOC. You know Vikram won’t return to keep his promise. The girl in front of you, eyes a little glassy, soaking in the words of that promise made by her lover, doesn’t know that. The sacrifice that goes behind an Army officer’s sacrifice comes alive in that moment between Dimple and Vikram somewhere on that bus stand before he goes off to war.
Batra goes by choice. Vikram is on leave when news of India and Pakistan going into war breaks. The famous speech of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is played out on TV, and Batra gets restless. He knows he doesn’t belong in the verdant valleys of Palampur, but in the blinding-brown hills of Kargil. And thus Lieutenant Batra leaves his family, his friends, his Dimple. He speaks a line straight from the legend of Captain Vikram Batra: Ya toh Tiranga lehrake aaunga, ya toh Tirange mein lipat ke aaunga. Lekin aaunga zaroor!
The Kargil conflict – the toughest mountain warfare ever. Fought at a dizzying altitude of 17,000 feet, this historic war had a lot at stake. The Pakistani troops had infiltrated into the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC), disguised as Kashmiri militants. The skirmishes quickly escalated into a full-blown war that also chalked the journey of a soldier from Lieutenant to Captain for his absolute dare-devilry and patriotic spirit to unfurl the tricolour at the highest point of conflict. Even if that meant laying down his own life for the cause.
But before we get there, director Vishnu Varadhan and his writer Sandeep Srivastava take it slow. So we are taken right back to a childhood sequence of Captain Vikram Batra (Sidharth Malhotra) and shown his growing up years, finding the love of his life Dimple Cheema (Kiara Advani), before he is finally posted at the 13 JAK Rifles as a Lieutenant. While this build-up depicts the character’s journey, it doesn’t do so very sharply to merit so much screentime. In fact, most of the times, Kiara Advani’s track and the romantic songs featuring her, feel like a distraction from the heavy-duty subject at hand. This also impacts the pace of the film that suffers from a slow first half.
Of course, director Vishnu Varadhan had a mammoth task of doing justice to the copious amounts of data and milestones from the Kargil war, but the bulk of it is dealt with, in the second half. Sidharth Malhotra shines in the war scenes and his performance evolves through the film. His earnest efforts to recreate the aura of his character’s larger-than-life persona shows on screen and this is one of his better performances. Kiara Advani looks her part as a resolute Sardarni, who loves her man with all her heart. But she doesn’t have much scope to perform.
Shiv Panditt is very aptly cast as Captain Sanjeev Jamwal, who is tough on the outside, but emotional from within. Nikitin Dheer is impressive as the cheerful Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia and so is Shataf Figar as the straight talking Col. Yogesh Kumar Joshi. Together, these men make for an able team that you will root for, at all times. Among the many other character actors, there are a few stereotypes and clichés too, especially on the Pakistani side.
The film’s overall tone is obviously high on patriotism. Many combat scenes don’t reflect the large canvas that the film is set up on, perhaps more deserving of a big screen experience. Yet, as an industry, Bollywood has seldom churned out epic war films that have been critically and commercially acclaimed. By those standards, ‘Shershaah’ ranks high than most of the recent war dramas and tells an inspiring story that needs to be told.
The source material of this film is so strong that it is bound to grip you once the men in uniform take it upon themselves to drive out the enemy and reclaim our land. ‘Shershaah’s biggest victory is its effort to recreate one of the most important chapters of our recent history with characters, who lead the way to a rousing climax.