- 2 / 2
DIRECTOR: Omung Kumar
STARRING: Randeep Hooda, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Richa Chadda
RATING: 2.5 stars
I admit it’s an inspiring story that must be told, a story of a young Indian man (Sarbjit), held captive for more than two decades in Pakistan, yet doesn’t lose his sanity. A story of his sister (Dalbir) who moves mountains and dedicates her life to bring him back yet doesn’t lose hope. Alas, the biggest problem of Sarbjit lies in its telling. It seems that the scenes are written, not to tell the tragedy, but to unnecessarily evoke emotions and squeeze every tear out of its viewers. Lastly, the film is topped with ‘hail-the-sister’, ‘mera desh mahan’, ‘message on brotherhood’ moments that are so forced and out of context that it hurts.
Some of the sequences will make you stick to your stomach. Though one can see the forced attempt at making a tragedy, locking a man in a small box for eight months, unleashing creepy crawlies on him and subjecting him to inhuman treatment till he admits his crime. But one doesn’t complain. Sarbjit is based on a real story. So one doesn’t question the possibility of such cruel treatment meted out to the young man, even if it is a bit over dramatised. But beyond a point, the film tries just too hard.
What? The viewers are not crying? Let’s have the bodyguards push Dalbir and hit her on the head when she goes to see a minister. Let’s have the police officers frisk the family members, push them around, frisk them some more, spoil their make-up, strip them off their jewellery when they go to see Sarbjit in the jail. The film, in parts, becomes a long painful ode to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her comeback.
When Sarbjit goes missing, her father helplessly pleads Dalbir to save his son, “You have brought Sarbjit up, you have looked after him, you have to bring him back…blah blah blah…sob sob sob…you used to fight with me every time I scolded him, you would fight with the villagers, you have to bring him back…you are great…you are amazing…you are making a comeback, your last film didn’t work, I don’t care about my son, but you have to look all heroic…blah blah blah…sob sob sob!”
And in the second half, Sarbjit writes a five-page long essay on ‘Meri Didi Mahaan’. Singing paeans to a superstar’s comeback was contrived and out of context. The only time it makes sense is when Richa Chadda explains how the battle would have died a long time ago if the sister had not made it her life’s mission. There is so much of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film, it might have been better called Dalbir than Sarbjit.
And then there are lectures on borders, brotherhood and bravado. These scenes seem like an afterthought and hence don’t contribute much to the story and end up becoming separate parts that we have to insert in any Indo-Pak film. One moment we are planning to chase the biggest terrorist in the world, in the next moment, we go to a dargah. Because hey, chasing the terrorist can wait, an emotional line or a song on humanity should not. “Chalo tumhe aisi jagah lekar chalta hoon jahaan koi lakeere na ho…” Cut to a dargah and a Sufi kind of song.
The screenplay of the film is so disjointed that it seemed like a jigsaw puzzle more than a film. They try tracking a terrorist somewhere in Canada, who is caught in Chandigarh, which is followed by burning an effigy of (someone I couldn’t tell) in Pakistan to some random cats curling up with Sarbjit in jail, to a young girl getting married in India to a song. All of this happens back to back, without much notice or meaning.
There is some random stuff that happens inconsistently in the film. Human Rights people from Canada promise to help Sarbjit but never do. Some random godman also visits him in the jail, soothes him with words of love and delivers a parcel from his family and is never seen again.
Randeep Hooda is in his best form. After Laal Rang, he packs in another powerful performance. He plays the character, his dialogue delivery, his body language, the change in his character are enacted so well that you feel his agony. There is a scene in the second half where he breaks down. It’s quite a tearjerker.
Aishwarya-purple-lipstick-Rai-Bachchan is a bit too screechy in the film. She has got the Punjabi accent well, but doesn’t quite own the struggle of Dalbir.
The story is sad. The treatment is bad. It is long and loopy and manipulative but it hurts more because it is based on a true story.
THE RATINGS MEAN:
5 stars: Loved it. (This could make to top ten movies you must watch before you die!)
4 stars: Liked it. Recommend it. (This will help you sound intellectual and give you stuff to add at water cooler conversations.)
3 stars: Didn’t hurt. Watch it once.
2 stars: It put me to sleep. Watch it if you are an insomniac or a newly wedded couple. Winks!
1 star: Do I even need to explain this?