MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Sarbjit’ is a gem

MOVIE TIMINGS, JAMMU

Wave: The Wave Mall, Jammu | 03:10 PM, 05:40 PM, 08:10 PM, 10:40 PM
KC Cineplex: Jammu | 10:00 AM, 12:40 PM, 03:40 PM, 06:40 PM, 09:15 PM
Movietime: Jammu | 12:25 PM, 03:05 PM, 05:30 PM, 07:55 PM, 08:25 PM, 10:30 PM

WATCH OR NOT? 

Film: “Sarbjit”; Director: Omung Kumar; Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha; Rating: ****

Seeing some of the scathing reviews for “Sarbjit”, I was tempted to fish out the early reviews of a film released in 1975 which was condemned by critics for being “loud”, “brash”, “plotless” and “over-dramatic”. That film was Ramesh Sippy’s “Sholay”.

“Sarjbit” is no “Sholay”. Thankfully. But I firmly believe its forceful message on prisoners of politics and its persuasive emotional velocity in the scenes showing the imprisoned man’s sister’s and wife’s suffering, would be acknowledged in retrospect as remnants of a truly remarkable cinematic achievement.

The sister is played by the helplessly beautiful Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who rises valiantly to confront and embrace the sister Dalbir’s anguished and defiant fight to the end to free her brother. This is Dalbir’s story, more than Sarabjit Singh’s. And yet it’s also a film that doesn’t spare us Sarabjit’s anguish.

The director demonstrates a firm grip over the proceedings. The actors do the rest. Aishwarya is in ample, and amplified, command over her character’s gutsy endeavour to break down the defences. Though the performance gets shrill at times, it never loses it power. Although she remains inevitably glamorous, her performance gets progressively clamorous as the tragic finale approaches.

Randeep’s physical transformation as a traumatized prisoner is astonishing and convincing. He invests life-enforcing power into his role of a man who is locked away from home until his death. His demeanour as a dying prisoner, so frighteningly authentic is matched by his tireless spirit when he tells his sister that the name Sarabjit roams free all over the world because of her crusade to free him.

While Darshan Kumaar as a compassionate Pakistani lawyer and Ankur Bhatia in a very brief part as Aishwarya’s husband merge into the tragic fabric of the real-life saga with effortless candour, it is Richa Chadha as Sarabjit’s wife who is the real surprise.

In her melt-down scene when she reminds her tireless sister-in-law of their mutual losses of time and hope, Richa expresses a deep yearning for those of us who feed on memory. Powered by heart-breaking restrain and screaming silences this is Richa’s most accomplished performance to date. Makes you wonder what the film would have been like if it was told from Sarabjit’s wife’s perspective.

“Sarbjit” has immense poignancy at its heart. But the execution of the theme of a homesick dying man imprisoned in a hostile country often tends to lean dangerously close to populism.

“Sarbjit” manages to keep its head above the water even while the proceedings frequently revel in crowd-wooing conventions like singing, dancing and rabble-rousing rhetorics.

For all its concessions to high drama and populism, “Sarbjit” is a moving testimony to these troubled times when cross-border politics overpowers humanism. There is still hope.

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