Rating: 2/5 Stars (Two stars)
Star Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Darshan Kumaar
Director: Omung Kumar
What’s Good: Richa Chadha and Randeep Hooda keep this film afloat with their performances.
What’s Bad: Forced melodrama, jarringly irritating background score and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s screechy dialogue delivery.
Loo Break: Yes, please! Also a a pair of cotton balls for the ears.
Watch or Not?: A contrived plot and over the top performance by Aish makes this movie a lengthy affair. For not doing justice to the actual Sarabjit issue, I’d say this film is passable.
Sarbjit is based on the real-life incident of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian farmer who is based in Bhikhiwind, Punjab, near the Indo-Pak border. On a drunken night in 1990, Sarabjit (Randeep Hooda) crosses over the border and is caught by the Pakistani army. After being held captive, he is forced to take the identity of Ranjit Singh, an accused for carrying out bomb blasts in Lahore.
After learning about his disappearance and about being held captive by Pakistan, his sister Dalbir (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) decides to seek justice for her brother.
This is a tale of her courage, endurance and love for her falsely convicted brother.
Having Dalbir Kaur herself on board for the rights of the film, I fail to understand why the makers could not make this film a raw, no-frills affair. The heightened melodrama is the sheer cause of this film to put you off in spite of having a story worth telling at hand. Kumar’s Sarabjit is introduced as a happy go lucky, Punjabi guy who is highly family oriented but that doesn’t need to be conveyed with a celebratory song.
The film fails to establish Sarabjit’s character in depth. The film is focused on his sister and her struggle minus the political angle from the Indian side. Her two decade struggle seems to be literally put in a script that feels like decades for the audiences too.
Most dialogues come off as forced effect and hence fail to make an impact. Natural conversations are missing from the script, which make it a constant reminder that it is a film.
The best written scenes in Sarbjit would be where Sarabjit loses his patience and shouts at his sister explaining how miserable his life in the jail is. The other would be Richa Chadha, who plays Sarabjit’s wife, giving a peace of mind to Dalbir’s character after she has lost all faith in her cause to free her brother.
Only a few scenes click but luckily, the film does not have any jingoistic moments, which could have easily ruined the film even more.
Towards the end, the film takes a turn into becoming a campaign of sorts for freeing falsely convicted prisoners in both countries. Now, this comes as a little shocking since Sarabjit himself was neither proved to be a spy or a terrorist and involving other cases is definitely a risky move.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the lead in this film and considering the story, the film could have easily been titled Dalbir – A tale of a sister’s struggle. While the actress goes de-glam for her role, she does try her best to wash off her classy image too, but fails at that. With an accent that is highly unconvincing, Aish’s screechy dialogue delivery all through the film, hampers your senses to feel anything for either of the characters. She manages to shine in limited scenes but most of the time seems completely over the top. What’s sad is that while the grey hair for her character keep increasing over the years, her body language pretty much remains the same.
Randeep Hooda, who plays Sarabjit in the film seems highly under-used for his talent. He pulls off the jail scenes extremely well but unfortunately, the director wants us to focus more on his unkempt conditions than his acting.
Richa Chadha as Sukhpreet, the wife does a fabulous job. She hardly speaks but emotes extremely powerfully with her eyes. As a wife longing for her husband’s return, she is spot on.
Darshan Kumaar gets a short role of a Pakistani lawyer in the film. He tries hard to come off as a character that should win your heart but he doesn’t.
National award winning director, Omung Kumar gets highly ambitious, by attempting to make a film like Sarbjit. His focus right from the start seems to be pleasing the masses and hence the high level of commercial elements are added that downplay a hard-hitting story.
The casting of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for this role itself makes it clear, as to where the director was heading with this film.
He wants the audiences to feel everything in one film, right from the ‘bhai-behen ka pyaar’, the raw treatment given to convicts in jail, the power of ‘candle-light’ marches and ‘Bhook Hartals’ in India. Of course, this mishmash doesn’t work.
Elements that could have been easily chucked from this tale would be the unnecessary song and dance sequence of Tung Lak and the romantic scenes of Sarabjit and Sukhpreet in Salamat. This not only would have shortened the run-time, but also would have kept the audiences hooked to the actual story.
Kumar plays Bollywood cliches such as Sarabjit enjoying the rains in jail while his estranged wife too gets drenched in India or Dalbir giving him a Rakhi on their first meet after years in the jail cell. Also, the scenes such as the Pakistani lawyer taking Dalbir to a mosque after she loses the case are too outstretched from reality.
Scenes of Sarabjit being tortured in jail form as the best ones in the entire film. They are well captured to make you feel the disgust and pain that an innocent life could go through.
Keeping both Indian and Pakistani politics at bay, Kumar’s Sarbjit plays safe to avoid getting into any controversies.
The Last Word
Sarbjit fails to rise above its commercial nature to actually hit you in the gut with its real story. I am going with a 2/5 for the film.