"Ek gore ne mujhse kaha tha ki tum Gulaam ho....Hindustan ki dharti se darpok paida hote hain....Aaj Jabab dene ka vakt aa gaya hai," says Havildar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) to his regiment of soldiers as they see a huge army of Afghan invaders approaching to attack the fort of Saragarh.
The tension in the air is palpable and you can feel the adrenaline rush too. Sadly, Kesari has less of such emotionally-charged moments.
Set in 1897, Kesari begins with British Indian army Havildar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) getting into a confrontation with a few Afghans after they attempt to kill a woman. When Singh disobeys his British superiors, he gets transferred to the sleepy fort of Saragarhi where he is in-charge of a battalion of 21 from the 36 Sikh regiment.
Soon, the Afghans decide to attack their fort. However, the 21 Sikhs led by Ishar Singh refuse to retreat and choose martyrdom instead.
The Battle Of Saragarhi is a story which deserves to be told on celluloid. Since a very long time, Indian filmmakers have been fascinated with this tale of courage and valour. However, it's Akshay Kumar and team who get a chance to translate this dream on the reel. Anurag Singh makes his directorial debut in Bollywood with Kesari. While the director is honest with his craft, it's the lazy writing which plays a major spoilsport.
The first half of the film moves at a sluggish pace and tests your patience. Anurag takes his own sweet time for the build-up of the battle, but there isn't enough meat there to chew on. Thankfully post interval, Kesari picks up speed and gets you engrossed in it. The last 20 minutes of the film are highly impressive and linger with you for long.
One of the biggest shortcomings for the film is the lack of backstories for its characters. As a result, it becomes a tad difficult to emotionally involve yourself with their journey.
Speaking about the performances, Akshay Kumar portays Ishar Singh with great conviction. His body language and pitch perfectly goes with his role. Be it the combat sequences or tearjerker moments, the Khiladi does leave a lasting impression. However, his fake beard and moustache comes across as distracting. The rest of his comrades too put up a good show.
Parineeti Chopra has minimum screen-time and her character barely adds any depth to the story.
Manish More's lousy editing makes the pre-interval portion a drag. Had there been few more impressive songs, it would have added more flavour to the film. The piercing jabs and the striking slashes pique your curiosity in the battle sequences.
Anshul Chobey's cinematography tunes well with the theme of the film. Music-wise barring the soul-stirring Teri Mitti, none of the songs have a recall value.
While Akshay Kumar's Kesari has its intentions in the right place, it's the dull writing which makes it lose half the battle. I am going with 2.5 stars.