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Shershaah Makes All The Right Moves To Honour A True Hero



Shershaah(Amazon Prime)

Starring  Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani

Directed  by Vishnuvardhan

Rating: *** ½

There is something irrefutably  comforting about  a  bio-pic , specially  if it chronicles the life of a true hero.And I do want to stress, true hero. In recent years we’ve had too many  Bollywood bio-pics on gangsters and politicians and gangster-politicians. Shershaah honours  a man who gave up his life at age 24 for his country. 

Sure,  we  honoured Vikram Batra  with a  Paramvir Chakra. But ask his family, if  the  medal comforts them when they remember Vikram  every single day.To his credit, Sidharth  Malhotra plays  Vikram Batra with  a sincerity and honesty that shine through in  every frame. In every frame he  is Rajesh Khanna  in  Anand and Aradhana.  You know he is going to be missed sorely   once he’s gone.

Malhotra plays Batra as  unforgettable. Boyish, helpful, sincere and  endearing…There is not  a duplicitous bone in this soldier and lover-boy.The  film  allows the protagonist to fly freely.Director  Vishnuvardhan’s  storytelling is remarkably  liberated  of gimmicks. If you are looking for  unexpected twists and turns in a soldier’s saga then I  suggest  you watch The Deer Hunter ,or  maybe  Abbas-Mastan’s Soldier? Kitsch is not in demand  in Shershaah. A  Sreekar Prasad’s editing  and  Kamaljeet Negi’s  cinematography  are  unobtrusive. They know who the  true hero is this time.

 Shershaah  plays  it straight  . It has no room for or patience with  humbug except for a few love songs.And they, the songs, fit in effectively without seeming like  impositions because, well, Vikram strikes me  as  the  kind of guy who would burst into a throaty  Punjabi  number to woo his  ladylove.

 Kiara Advani as  the love of Vikram’s life (and afterlife)  looks so much like a woman in love,I wished there was more time for their romance on  screen.Alas, time runs out for Vikram Batra with shocking  suddenness. We know it is coming. But  to see that whole ritual of  the coffin wrapped  up  in the Indian flag is heartbreaking.

I was  sobbing at  the end  of the film not because it  is a great  piece of art. But because it pulls no punches and  resorts to no artifice. Vikram’s story is presented dutifully , and rather beautifully  in chronologically order.We see Vikram as a rebellious  child bonding with his twin brother.

Oddly we never see Vikram and his twin brother  together  in their adulthood. Knowing  how close the brothers were, this is terrible lacuna  in  the   bio-pic. I felt  the absence of  the brotherly  bonding  .

There is  a lot more of Vikram’s  gregarious  kinship with his  best friend(Sahil Vaid)  and his  fellow-soldiers and seniors  in the army, all well played. The army life is portrayed with unostentatious authenticity  . Little gestures and  throwaway lines show how much Vikram Batra was loved  by all his friends and colleagues.

Shershaah  replays the  events leading up to Vikram’s death  during the 1999 Kargil war with  a brusque  efficiency.  It doesn’t take  the war genre forward. That isn’t what this project set  out to  do. It  aspired to  bring alive  a true hero’s saga , and it does that successfully.  Full marks  to Amazon Prime  and Karan Johar for  giving future generations a  glimpse into a life  that was short but oh so significant.Anand Saigal  would have  approved.

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