Writer-Anurag Singh, Girish Kohli
Cast- Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Mir Sawar, Ashwath Bhatt
Is a war drama based on real life battle of Saragarhi where in 21 brave Sikh soldiers fought against 10,000 Afghan tribesmen defending Saragarhi fort in Khyber pass in 1897.
The movie opens with a brief introduction to the geo political situation of that area and time involving British, Russians, Afghans and the Indians fighting on behalf of British.
Ishwar Singh( Akshay) is valorous and ethical Sikh who defies his British senior to save the life of an Afghan woman from religious fanatics. As a punishment, he is posted at Saragarhi fort which apparently has not much action happening. Once there, he puts together the team of 21 brave but seemingly lackadaisical soldiers, who are in a passive and unruly mode because of lack of action, in an active and disciplined mode.
The real historic event has apparently been woven with some dramatization to create interesting angles. It’s needless to say that cinematic liberties will have to be taken in stride. And since typical Bollywood flicks are centred around a hero, here we have it revolving around Ishwar Singh who was the brave commander in that event.
The story doesn’t focus on the individual heroics of the rest but we assume that the rest of them were no lesser heroes.
The Afghan tribes in a bid to capture the two important forts namely- Lockardt and Gulistan decide to attack Saragarhi first because it had an important strategic position between the two other forts.
When brave 21 realise that they are under attack and help from other forts wouldn’t be able to reach them on time, they decide to literally hold fort and engage the tribesmen as long as possible so that the other forts could be saved. Their bravery and valour even as they face death , fills you with overwhelming respect and awe.
Screenplay by Anurag Singh and Girish Kohli is fairly engaging considering that they had to weave the story around an event of just 1 day. The camaraderie amongst the battalion, the banter, the brief glimpses of their personalities adds a good amount of humour. The dialogues and the thick punjabi dialect add zing to the humour.
It drives you to immense respect when incidents and dialogues infused in the story remind you of the ethos of Sikhs, their principles, their history which always emphasises on compassion for even the injured enemy, chivalry for the women,respect for other religions, and most important of all,bravery and valour.
The visual scale and setting is pretty impressive ( Production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray).Cinematography by Anshul Choubey is good.
Lawrense Woodward and Parvez Sheikh create good stunts that involve a lot of the Sikh martial art( Gatka).
Towards the end, when the battle gets fiercer and face to face,there’s a lot of cold blooded blood bath. Some might find it a little tough but then thats how the battles are, harsh and ruthless .
Akshay who is virtually in every frame does a fairly good job even though he unfairly remains the focus through out.
The ensemble cast is great with each one looking authentic. Wish there was some more focus on at least some of them.
Have read some dissenting views about the violence,or Afghans being shown in evil light encouraging Islamophobia, or glorification of war and violence. It’s really sad that we end up having politicised and polarised views on everything.
Just watch the film to celebrate the bravery and valour of the 21 brave soldiers.
It’s a rousing story that’s quite engaging and enjoyable. Would turn you most eyed and overwhelmed with emotions and respect.
It’s an ode to the Sikhs who stand for morality, conscientiousness, openness, dependability, loyalty and bravery.
Score 8 on 10