Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, Aishwarya Rai
Sarbjit is a powerful, sensitive, compelling drama that under the skillful hands of director Omung Kumar tugs at your heartstrings and haunts you long after the movie is over.
The film recreates the real life nightmare of a family’s struggles to get Sarbjit Singh released from the Pakistani prison after he accidently strayed into Pakistan in a drunken stupor and is convicted of terrorism and spying. Sarbjit not only recounts the heart-wrenching tale of this Indian farmer whose 23-year-old ordeal is beyond imagination but also brings to the fore this beautiful sister-brother bond between Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) and Sarbjit (Randeep Hooda).
Randeep’s transformation from a happy-go-lucky Punjabi munda to a tortured prisoner does not only astonish but also gives you goosebumps. His hard work to make the character his own is clearly visible.
Despite that unsettling feeling that comes with all real-life dramas where you know there is no ‘happy ending’, the film engages you with its exceptional cinematography, stellar performances, and masterful direction. Director Omung Kumar, who had earlier given us the biopic Mary Kom, captures the pain and suffering of a family who is leaving no stone unturned to bring their man back home and manages to evoke genuine emotions from the audience.
The film is interspersed with plenty of endearing moments, which are beautifully shot and leave you speechless. For instance, the moment when Sarbjit, after almost a year, receives a letter from his sister and reads it in a narrow beam of moonlight coming through the window in his dark prison cell, your heart goes out to him that very moment. Then there is a scene where he hides his only companion in the kal Kothari – an ant, as soon as he senses that the officials are coming for the fear that they might take away his only contact with life. When Sarbjit cleans the cell and makes tea for his family is another scene worth mentioning. Not to forget Dalbir’s breakdown in the saarson ke khet, which until now in Hindi films have only epitomized love and romance.
Coming to Dalbir Kaur and Aishwarya’s portrayal of this sister who fought with everyone to prove her brother innocent and bring him back – it’s remarkable. Though there are a few moments where she flounders, overall, she delivers a memorable performance.
Richa Chadha yet again wows with her versatility and though she is in the background, she shines through with her subtle, underplayed act. Darshaan Kumar, who was last seen in Mary Kom and NH10 does justice to his part and so does the rest of the supporting cast that comprises of Ankita Srivastav, Shiwani Saini, Ankur Bhati, and Charanpreet Singh and Ram Murti Sharma.
The screenplay manages to strike a good balance between cinematic drama and the realistic flavour; however, one wishes it had been crisper and shorter, especially in the second half.
On the whole, the biographical drama is worth a watch but don’t forget to carry a box of tissue along.
Lastly, a salute to the real Dilbar Kaur and her fighting spirit.