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Sardar Udham, Not Just A  Film  But An Event

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Sardar Udham(Amazon Prime)

Starring  Vicky Kaushal, Shaun Scott

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Directed  by Shoojit Sircar

Rating: ****

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Where  were  you  on 13 April   1919 when the  Jalianwala  Bagh massacre happened? And  where were  you  on 16 October 2021 when  Sardar  Udham, Shoojit Sircar’s remarkably  mordant  film about the Massacre, was released?

Note the  two historic dates. One  when the historic event  actually  happened .And  the other when the event that created history  was recreated in a  film that’s at once  a comprehensive bio-pic and a sharp thriller about  an assassination  of  a dubious political figure  ,a  la  The day  Of  The Jackal.

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Indeed Frederick Forsyth  meets  Richard Attenborough in this  astute, if over-long  cinematic replication of an assassination that shook the world.  The  film is  punctuated  by bouts  of  indefinable pathos  and  yet Sircar, a master when it comes to  temperate  storytelling, exercises an  incredible  restrain over his  potentially unwieldy narration that takes its protagonist  here  there  and everywhere.

 From Sunam, a village in  Punjab to Russia, to finally London where General O’Dwyer(Shaun  Scott, well played) is   now busy giving lectures  on  the glorious days  of  the British  Raj and what a brave and noble  deed he  performed by  ordering the  Massacre… “to teach  them a  lesson.”

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Now look who’s having the last laugh.

For  all  its anti-British tone, Sardar Udham  bravely  refuses  to demonize the Britishers.In fact one of the  British interrogators  of  Udham, played by Stephen  Hogan I so sympathetic  to Udham’s crime that he  almost ends up looking like  a token of reconciliation. Also,  I  sometimes  caught O’Dwyer  looking stricken with guilt(or was I just imagining it) before he is assassinated, as he  ought to be.

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True to its mercurial mood  , Sardar Udham follows a capricious  timeline. It starts with Udham Singh journeying from his  village  to  London via Russia , then moves through early years where  we are told rather airily that  he was in love with a mute girl named Resham(Binita Sandhu). It ends with the recreation  of  the  Jallianwala  massacre.

 And  this is where Sircar’s film goes  from being an admirable  bio-pic to a certifiable masterpiece.The  last 45-50  minutes of the lengthy(almost  2 ½  ours)  film shows the carnage in all its sanguinary splendour. Sircar  and his Udham, Vicky Kaushal, pull out all stops  as  bloodied wounded  survivors  of the massacre are  carted  to hospitals. The  Massacre  makes for a harrowing watch. But you can’t take your eyes off the orange-and-red fire and blood, splattered screen.

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Cinematographer  Avik Mukhopadhyay , director Sircar’s long-term collaborator  is  the  second hero of  the film. Avik’s lenses  capture the  London of  the  1920s with an understated grace. Sircar neither overdoes the  pungency  nor undermines the  immediacy  of period details. Every period details looks  just right.

How did he do it? We will never know. The director himself would be hard put to  explain the film’s pitch-perfect tone,  the  absolute eschewal  of  melodrama, the  sparing scintillating use of Shantanu Moitra’s  background score and  the  remarkable regard  for preserving and yet liberating  history’s  mysteries  with a visionary’s  flourish   as  deft and delicate  as  the notes of Vande Mataram and just as affecting.

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  The  performances are in keeping with Sircar’s mood of mellow rebellion. While  Shaun Scott’s  General O’Dwyler is  caught in all  the awkwardness  of  a political butcher  posing as  a martyr,Amol Parasher ‘s Bhagat Singh is ludicrously sketchy. As  for  Vicky Kaushal’s  Udham Singh it is  a performance laced with grace,tinged with  bitterness and  defined by a dormant rage.

When Kaushal says  something as  innocently  pacifying  as “Mere bahot saare  British friends hain” he  sounds as fringe-friendly as  those fake  liberals who say, “I’ve nothing against the gay  community. In fact some of my  best friends are  gay.”

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With Udham  around it’s clearly not safe to be  a British imperialist.Forget gay.

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Jamuna Had A Love-Hate Relationship With  Bollywood

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Jamuna

Veteran  Telugu  actress  Jamuna who passed away on Friday, shared an uneasy relationship with  the Hindi film industry.She did eleven Hindi films including the iconic Milan in  1967 where Jamuna  agreed to play the  second lead, or the  supporting role if you will, to Nutan.

 Jamuna as Gauri was the Other Woman who craved for the hero Sunil Dutt’s attention whereas  he had  eyes and devotion  only for Nutan. In later  years  Aruna Irani played a similar  role in  Caravan.

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 In Milan Jamuna  was not keen to  do a supporting role. Producer L V Prasad tempted her with three chartbusting songs. Besides, Jamuna had played the same role in Mooga Manasulu, the  Telugu original  of  Milan. But it  was the songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal  which convinced  Jamuna to  take up the second lead in Milan.

 While  Nutan had no solo songs  in Milan, she did have the chartbuster duet  Sawan  ka mahina . Jamuna on the  other hand,  had two  splendid Lata Mangeshkar solos: Tohey saawariya naahin khabariya  and   the magnificent Ghazal Aaj dil pe koi  zor chalta nahin.Not only  these, Jamuna  also had a  hit duet  with Mukesh  based on her character  Gauri:  Bol Gauri  bol tera kaun piya.

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But  then, fate  intervened. After the film released  one of Jamuna’s solos, the poignant and memorable  Aaj dil pe koi zor chalta nahin was  snipped  out of the film.

Here is what  happened:  the  Ghazal , one of Lataji’s all-time greats, was very much a part of Milan when  it released on 17 March 1967. But then  it was seen to hamper the  flow of the  film and  edited  out. The  beautiful song occurred right after intermission. Producer  Prasad, a shrewd  filmmaker, got to know that audiences prolonged their  loo breaks as there was  a song after the break. Hence the sacrifice  of  a seriously  sonorous melody.

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Jamuna hardly did  Hindi films after Milan. Her last  Bollywood appearance  was in  Raj Kumar  Kohli’s Raj Tilak  where she  was lost in a multistarrer as  the royal  queen.

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Karan Johar Moves Alia Song From Switzerland To Kashmir

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Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani

The  romantic duet in  Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani  which was to be  shot in Switzerland and which was  delayed  due to the film’s leading lady Alia Bhatt’s motherhood, is now being relocated to  Kashmir.

Purely out of  the  love for  new mom Alia.

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Says a source in the know, “Karan loves Alia  like his own daughter. He would do anything for her. He postponed  the  release of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani as the love duet could not be shot before Alia’s maternity leave. Karan had decided to shoot the song in Switzerland  after Alia’s maternity love. But now he has relocated the song to Kashmir  as Alia doesn’t want to leave her  baby girl behind for  long stretches.”

And as Karan Johar argued, snow is  snow. How does it matter whether it is  Switzerland or Kashmir?

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This  song would be Karan Johar’s tribute to  his  idol Yash Chopra. Alia would be dressed in chiffon sarees while  Ranveer, for  a change, would be seen in  formals.

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Bobby Deol’s Switchover To Villainous Roles

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Bobby Deol

After  Prakash Jha’s webseries Ashram where Bobby  played a sleazy  godman, and Love Hostel  where  he was a ruthless assassin,   he is playing the villain to Ranbir Kapoor in  Sandeep Vanga’s  Animal.

Bobby says it is not conscious career decision to play negative characters  but a conscious  decision to play interesting characters. “ I don’t look at  characters as positive or negative.When I watch  films there is always  one character  that stays  with you. I want to play that  character.”

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Prakash Jha’s Ashram proved a gamechanger for Bobby.  He admits finding  challenging roles is tough.  “I am trying. I  am doing Sandeep Vanga’s Animal with Ranbir  Kapoor , Parineeti Chopra. Then I am doing the family film Apne  2 which I am  very excited  about.”

 In an  earlier  interview with  this writer Bobby spoke  about his   long absence  from screen  before Prakash Jha’s Ashram.  “My fans   would ask why I wasn’t being seen on the screen.And I couldn’t tell them it was  because  I wasn’t getting good roles. But my fans  stood by me. They gave me  the strength  to  keep looking for the right roles. Thankfully I found the roles I liked. My new  films have given  me  some new fans. I am  thankful  I am still here. Yeah , I am in a good space right now.”

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Pathaan Collects 55 crore nett in India On Day 1

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Pathaan

YRF’s Pathaan has apparently wiped out all previous records as it collected 55 crore nett in India and recorded the biggest ever Day 1 for a Hindi film. The total collections of Pathaan on Day One is 57 crore nett (Hindi – 55 crore and dubbed versions 2 crore).

It is the widest Hindi release of  all  time in India and also the highest grossing 1st Day for a   Hindi film.It is  also the  highest grosser  on the  first first for a  non-holiday release. Pathhan is  also the highest  opener for Shah Rukh Khan.

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Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, says, “It is a historic day for Indian cinema and we are humbled to see the love and appreciation that is flowing for Pathaan globally. For Pathaan to shatter records in this fashion on a non holiday, just proves that the theatrical business is here to stay, provided we make films that entice people to come to the cinemas to witness a never seen before experience that entertains them thoroughly.“

He adds, “We, at YRF, are thrilled with the start that the film has got across India and we are hopeful that Pathaan brings joy to cine-goers globally in the days to come! Pathaan is the fourth film of our YRF Spy Universe and we are thrilled that we have been able to elevate the cinematic experience of audiences with each film from this franchise. We humbly share this moment with all the stake-holders of the film who have given their blood, sweat and tears to give people a movie-going experience like never before.”

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