When Udham Singh (Vicky Kaushal) seeks help from Eileen Palmer (Kirsty Averton), a member of the communist group post the decline of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), the latter suggests him to fight for the freedom of the whole world instead. Udham in his broken English politely declines and explains, "You equal, you march for being equal. I'm not equal. I'm not free. When my country is free, then, I shall march as an equal, for equality."
Shoojit Sircar's latest outing Sardar Udham shines when it comes to giving a sneak-peek into the ideology of the great revolutionary who set out to avenge the lives of his beloved brethren who were brutally slained in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 on the orders of Michael O'Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of Punjab in India.
Available on: Amazon Prime Video
What's Yay: Vicky Kaushal
What's Nay: The film could have been snipped shorter by several minutes
Udham Singh begins with a quick recalling of the horrific massacre in the walled city of Amritsar in which Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer had ordered his men to open fire at a peaceful gathering of over 20,000 people at Jallianwala Bagh, without warning.
The film then jumps to Punjab, 1931 where Sher Singh (Vicky Kaushal) is released from the prison after completing his term. He learns from his comrade Nand Singh that most of the leaders of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) have been either arrested or shot down by the British. Post a series of events, Sher Singh finally lands up in London in 1934 to garner international support and regroup HSRA. After lying low for sometime, Singh gives a huge blow to the British Empire by carrying out the assassination of Michael O'Dyer at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society (now Royal Society for Asian Affairs) at Caxton Hall, London in 1940.
The rest of the plot revolves around the events which led to this assassination and the aftermath of the ghastly Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
Just like the man who waited for two decades to seek revenge for the brutal killing of his brethren in his homeland, director Shoojit Sircar also took 20 years to bring this incident of historic importance to life on the big screen. Together with writers Ritesh Shah and Shubhendu Bhattacharya, the filmmaker gives us a better understanding of revolutionary Udham Singh and his belief system when it comes to the freedom movement of India.
Sircar who has a knack for human emotions, handles this subject with maturity and sensitivity. Amid all this, there is also an instance where the storyteller tries to make a commentary on the current political scenario with the help of Bhagat Singh's revolutionary political thought. On the flipside, the film takes its own sweet time to delve into the heart of the plot.
Coming to the another crucial aspect is the reenactment of the Jallianwala Bagh. Shoojit Sircar has spent a lot of time in showing us the aftermath of the horrific incident. Does it work? Yes, almost. It's just that it gets a bit laborious at times. Of course, Vicky is quite a revelation in those portions. You connect with every emotion of his. When his frail legs give away while carrying pile of dead bodies, you feel the exhaustion too.
Sardar Udham is a Vicky Kaushal show all the way. Right from his body language to his voice modulation, the man gets it bang on right. Besides his steely resolution as Udham Singh, he also exudes a certain innocence in the younger portions as the revolutionary figure.
Banita Sandhu as Reshma (Udham's friend and love interest) tries to make the most out of her role. Amol Parashar puts up an impressive act as Bhagat Singh and shines despite his limited presence. His scenes with Vicky Kaushal are impactful. Shaun Scott as Michael O'Dyer does his job well.
This Shoojit Sircar directorial presents several haunting visuals which linger with you for a long time and the credit goes to Avik Mukhopadhyay. Be it Vicky's character braving the cruel cold amid snow-capped mountains to hawks looming over the sky with piles of dead bodies lying on the ground, the cinematographer breathes life in those scenes with his brilliant camera work.
One of the sore points of Sardar Udham is Chandrashekhar Prajapati's lazy editing. At a runtime of around 3 hours, the film makes you restless at places. A more tighter grip on the editing scissors would have made this Vicky-starrer a much more powerful film. Pradip Jadhav's art direction is top-notch.
Sardar Udham steers clear of inserting unnecessary songs in its narrative and that works in its favour. The background score also lends to the sobriety of the film.
After hearing Udham Singh recount how he watched the ugly dance of death through his own eyes as an aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, his lawyer St John Hutchinson asks him what he could do for him. The freedom fighter who is waiting to be executed, replies, "Tell people that I was a revolutionary."
Shoojit Sircar and his team need to be lauded for choosing to tell a story about an unsung hero whom we have only met through our History textbooks. Despite the few flaws which it has, Sardar Udham needs to be watched purely for the larger message- 'No one wins in a war.'
We give 3 stars out of 5 for Vicky Kaushal-starrer Sardar Udham.