Less than three weeks ago, when the trailer of 'Shershaah' was unveiled on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, the first few scenes were enough to convince us that we were about to witness a newer dimension to the actor in Sidharth Malhotra. I'm happy to report that we've been proven right.
Directed by Vishnu Varadhan, who makes his Hindi directorial debut with the film, 'Shershaah' is an honest and straight-forward depiction of the decorated brave Indian soldier, Captain Vikram Batra, a Param Vir Chakra awardee, whose exemplary courage and bravery helped India emerge victorious against Pakistan in the 1999 Kargil War. As part of Operation Vijay, Captain Batra and his troupe, the Delta Company under the 13th Jammu and Kashmir Rifles regiment led India to successfully capturing point 5140 and eventually 4875, which also resulted in the brave soldier succumbing to his injuries. But the film also explores the multiple facets of Capt. Batra's life. A young man who loved his films, his beloved, his family and his country.
Written by Sandeep Shrivastava, the film remains committed to its subject and lets us discover the eventual metamorphosis of a boy into a man. Born to teacher parents, we are shown how Vikram, like many of us was deeply influenced by pop culture which fueled his aspirations in life, through clever introductory scenes. What led him to realise that he wanted to become a soldier. Or how he pursued his lady love. How his victory signal was inspired by a popular advertising tagline. For many who were even skeptical about how the soldier's love story fits into the narrative, let me tell you that it makes for an important inclusion. Given a generation living in the day and age of Instagram and dating apps, the film pays a beautiful ode to old-school romance. When public gardens were meeting spots, when letters and conversations on landlines were means towards nurturing a relationship. The script maintains a fine balance between the soldier's personal and professional life. Cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi gives us picturesque views of Palampur and Chandigarh while also adding nuance to the excellent war sequences in Kashmir, executed by Stefan Richter and Sunil Rodrigues. John Stewart Eduri's background score further heightens the intrigue and intensity of these scenes. Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty's production design and Eka Lakhani's costume design are period appropriate, lending authenticity and relevance of the late 90s. Edited by A. Sreekar Prasad, the film's runtime is about two hours, suitable enough for an audience consuming content on a digital platform. But an important twelve-minute-long closing credits have been duly integrated by the makers which pays a tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Kargil War.
Playing such a decorated officer, who was known by his peers and his family as a charming and caring human being is a big responsibility and Sidharth sinks his teeth into playing both Capt. Batra and his identical twin brother Vishal. He invests such unmistakable sincerity, it's infectious that you can't help but surrender to it. Truly, a career-defining performance. Complimenting him is the beautiful Kiara Advani as Dimple Cheema, a woman whose unwavering resilience and resolve becomes Capt. Batra's biggest strength. Her heart-breaking scene in the climax will leave your eyes brimming with tears. Shiv Panditt as Capt. Sanjeev Jamwal offers a steely yet compassionate portrayal. Actors Nikitin Dheer, Abhiroy Singh, Anil Chiranjeet, Himanshu A Malhotra, Raj Arjun, Pranay Pachauri, Jaykartik and Shataf Figar are suitably cast playing real-life army men who fought alongside Capt. Batra in the war. The only actors playing stereotypical parts are Sahil Vaid as Capt. Batra's best friend Sunny and Mir Sarwar as Haider, a Kashmiri militant who resents the Indian Army. Which is frankly not their fault. We hope that casting directors and filmmakers conceive better characters for these actors.
This Independent Day weekend, make time for 'Shershaah'. Alike 'Raazi' and 'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl', the film is yet another offering from Dharma Productions' vault which celebrates patriotism without deploying chest-thumping jingoism.