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Posted at: May 20, 2016, 7:21 PM; last updated: May 20, 2016, 7:28 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW — SARBJIT

Shed tears for Sarbjit

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Film: Sarbjit

  • Director:Omung Kumar
  • Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, Darshan Kumar
Shed tears for Sarbjit
A still from Sarbjit

Nonika Singh

Ever wondered what cinema does to a real life story. Well it humanises it. So Sarbjit’s tragic tale might have been played out time and again in newspapers and on television screens, yet it never quite captured the anguish of the man incarcerated in Pakistani jail for 23 long years as effectively as Sarbjit does.

Of course, cinema also lends a perspective and isn’t always the balanced wholesome vantage view and even shirks away from asking discomfiting questions. Sarbjit simply looks at his imprisonment and the ensuing death sentence primarily from the point of view of his sister Dalbir the woman who became the face of save 

Sarbjit campaign. From start to finish except for a brief flashback the film dwells on the sister’s struggle to free her brother across the border. Whether Sarbjit was an Indian spy involved in terror activities in Pakistan is a thought that film entertains but only to deny it point blank. Structured as a sister’s crusade that spanned decades, the film essentially belongs to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, as Dalbir, she has done a sincere act, even though her Punjabi accent is not quite consistent. In the initial rushes her beauty might take away from 

her character. But she soon grows on you and manages to get her emotional-scape right. Randeep who has gone the whole hog to get his part right is first rate and slips into the persona of Sarbjit, both as the carefree Punjabi and the shackled prisoner. We can’t say effortlessly for 

he has prepared real hard for this real character. In the first half, one feels he is wasted for sadly he doesn’t get much screen time. Yet even then he manages to convey the anguish of man undergoing unimaginable torture. In the second half he has many more moments. Be it the 

scene in which he breaks down completely or those in which just one-liners are enough to mirror his torment he never fails to stir. Nor does the film which of course is mounted as a tragedy and goes for your tear ducts from the word go. Despite the tragic overtones, the director keeps you invested in the story and the heightened emotional appeal of the subject doesn’t flag. Though interspersed into the narrative is the complex Indo Pak relationship that might have sealed the fate of Sarbjit, by and large the director stays with his subject. 

Only often it becomes more Dalbir than Sarbjit. Had Randeep got few more scenes, had other characters such as those of his wife (Richa Chadda) and the Pakistani lawyer (Darshan Kumar) been better etched perhaps the impact would have been more potent. Richa actually gets a short shrift and has only a moment or two rather late in the act. Yet despite a few unwarranted 

sequences like Dalbir’s over the top confrontation with the man Ranjit whose identity supposedly got switched with Sarbjit’s and few strident speeches that she delivers far too often, the film relives Sarbjit’s tragedy unequivocally and with intensity. Amidst tears that 

constantly swarm your eyes, the biggest takeaway from the film is the suffering of a Punjabi farmer who in all likelihood paid with his life for no fault of his. Fleetingly the director also reminds you about the plight of prisoners in general trapped on both sides of the border. 

Well intended and fairly well executed Sarbjit makes the viewing grade.

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