I was having a casual conversation with my mother about Jallianwala Bagh and she was quick to point out that my grandparents had visited the site years ago. And once they were there, they could feel the vibe of sadness that was engrained in the atmosphere. The tragedy that had taken place in 1919 will go down in history as one of the darkest days that the countrt has ever seen. And with that I have finished watching Sardar Udham on Amazon Prime, the revolutionary who was responsible for the assasination of Michael O’Dwyer in London, the man behind the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. What’s more is that this is the first biopic to be directed by one of my favourite directors doing the rounds, Shoojit Sircar. Is Sardar Udham worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Sardar Udham is the biopic on Sardar Udham Singh known for the assasination of Michael O’Dwyer in London, the man behind the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. And the story is a worthy one to tell. In the current millenium, some of the films on freedom fighters that are popular are Rang De Basanti and the Legend Of Bhagat Singh. And so we do know their side of the story pretty well(as is the case with Mahatma Gandhi). As far as Sardar Udham Singh is concerned, I just knew about this single incident which he was involved in. So being a fan of history myself, I really was looking forward to watching the story behind the assasination. The screenplay is the interesting bit here. It is a slow burn like all Shoojit Sircar films where the film relies a lot on the buildup initially before gathering pace midway through. Here though, the screenplay is layered and it frequently oscillates between the current and the past, jumping timelines at will. If as a viewer, you aren’t privy to this style of screenplay, you may find it hard keeping up with things. Also, the slow burner may act as a deterrent. And so make no mistake, this film turns out to be a niche!
But having said that, the main event of the assasination is unearthed within the first 40 minutes of the film that is 162 minutes long! And here comes the interesting bit, I was wondering as to what would transpire in the rest of the screentime. While the second act, focusses on the journey of Sardar Udham amidst the interrogation and the final verdict, it is the third act that takes you by surprise. This screenplay is literally a ticking timebomb! The entire event of Jallianwala Baug and the aftermath of it is relayed in a detailed manner which will surely fill you with many emotions! The trauma and violence are in abundance which makes the screenplay a hard watch right until the end. This is perhaps the best written screenplay for any biopic ever in my books! If you can make it past the initial buildup where you may feel where this film is headed then there is a masterpiece awaiting to be discovered. My only criticism could be that it could have been trimmed slightly shorter but I am willing to let that pass, considering the hair raising final act!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are pretty well written. Almost 70% of the film unfolds in english. And so there aren’t any Englishmen interacting with Indians in Hindi thankfully which makes a world of difference. The BGM is subtely terrific and really heightens the tension particularly in the final act. The cinematography is outstanding here capturing some of the most violent frames effectively. Director Shoojit Sircar scores yet again and how! Right from its opening act, the man stamps his authority, retelling the story of Sardar Udham Singh in a layered form which could have been tricky. But when the master is at work, the public can be sure of a masterpiece and this is exactly that. Distinction marks here!
The casting director deserves an applause here for casting English actors that aren’t usually a part of the mainstream. All the English actors are terrific here and definitely look their part. Banita Sandhu as Reshma is brilliant in a cameo. This is the straight second film where she doesn’t have a word to speak(after October also directed by Shoojit Sircar) and she is just so affable. Amol Parasher as Shaheed Bhagat Singh is pretty good again in a limited role. But it is Vicky Kaushal in perhaps the best act of his career that is in top form. As Sardar Udham Singh, a role initially penned for The Late Irrfan, he literally emotes pain through his eyes in every scene. In certain scenes, I saw shades of Irrfan in him and this is the best compliment that I can ever give anyone. If he is smart with his choices, the next decade could be his! It is safe to say that this is perhaps the start of the Vicky Kaushal era! What an acting masterclass in a role of a lifetime!
Sardar Udham is niche but perhaps the Best Biopic Ever Made and also The Best Hindi Film of 2021. You just cannot miss this Masterpiece! Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Highly Highly Recommended!