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A befitting and emotive odeA still from the film.
Movie review: Kesari

A befitting and emotive ode

21 Mar 2019 | 5:10 PM

Film: Kesari

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Govind Namdev, Rajpal Yadav, Vansh Bhardwaj, Mir Sarwar and Jaspreet Singh

Director: Anurag Singh

[ + read story ]

Nonika Singh

Aaj meri pagdi bhi Kesari, jo bahega mera lahu bhi Kesari aur mera jawaab bhi kesari.” That is Kesari for you recounting the Sikh valour in no uncertain terms. 

If one were to sum it up in one line well it is; 21 Sikh soldiers against an army of 10,000 Afghans.

But as Anurag Singh director and co-writer fleshes it out what you get is an engaging take and tale of the famed Battle of Saragarhi. That the battle happened is a verified historical fact.  Much of how it played out could be a figment of imagination which is corroborated by an extended disclaimer.

Indeed, it begins with Akshay Kumar acting as saviour of a woman of the enemy ranks. The opening sequence makes you a tad apprehensive; is this all about superstar Akshay Kumar and his heroics.

Indeed, for quite some time Akshay the star towers over his character. But from the moment he apologises to his senior British officer he melds and melts into the part of Havildar Ishar Singh. 

Ishar is impetuous, brave, just and above all stands for all that epitomises the best in a Sikh.

Till interval, the backdrop to what is being touted as the bravest battle ever fought is set.  How these brave men of the 36 Sikh regiment fought valiantly to the last drop of their blood is the stuff war and legends are made of.

Singh takes you into the period 1897 with just the right attention to detail neither overdoing it nor making any glaring lapses.

His cinematographer captures the landscape aesthetically without letting it get the better of storytelling.  Without a doubt narrative comes strong and emotive. It is loud and melodramatic too but touches an emotive chord nevertheless.

In a brief part Parineeti Chopra too provides the necessary emotive and romantic quotient and in a nearly all-male film, her attractive presence is used effectively.

Though Singh rightly admitted that not all 21 soldiers can be given an equal space, local actors like Vansh Bhardwaj and Suvinder Vicky get ample room and justify their characters with ease. 

Clearly there is more one hero here.  Rather the Sikh community is the hero.

Singh of super hit Punjabi comedy Jatt and Juliet fame too surfaces with doses of the irresistible and irrepressible Punjabi humour. But more than raising a few laughs it tells you about how the warrior race can laugh in the face of adversity and more importantly even when death stares it in the eye.

Sikh ethos and its philosophy come through without the tone turning preachy. Singh does not get into the semantics of his religion, yet its core values pulsate.

If Akshay’s diktat to his pathan cook to serve water to the wounded enemy soldiers appears too dramatic and poetic, we are simultaneously reminded how this is exactly what Bhai Kanahiya did. 

Secularism is Sikhism’s basic tenet too is driven home once again by telling us how a Muslim laid the foundation of the Golden Temple.

The use of the word jehad in communally charged times may make you see red. But soon enough it is established how religion is no more than a card in the hands of the bigoted which need not be of any one particular religious community.

Yes Pathans can be fair too and respect courage when they see it. But make no mistake Kesari is essentially and intrinsically about Sikh pride and honour.

You see it more than once, not just in the well-executed battle scenes where Guru Gobind Singh’s words sawa laakh se ek ladaun come to mind.  Shabads such as Shubh karman te kabhu na taro are used, but sparingly. And when you hear the impassioned Jo bole so nihal you are not only moved but tempted to join the chorus.

A befitting, even if a trifle dramatic, ode to the  soldiers of the Sikh regiment Kesari is a powerful tribute which Sikh nay entire Indian community can forever be proud of.

nonikasingh@tribunemail.com

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