Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra
War films are the flavour this year. Somehow, every other month, we have a film coming out that promises to set our adrenaline pumping and national flag perched on our car dash board for another thirty days. The mood doesn’t seem to be dying out. Now with India’s favourite patriotic Kumar turning us Kesari inside out, this flavour will be on for a while at the box office.
Circa 1897, Eshwar Singh (Akshay Kumar) is a soldier in the British Army but a complete Indian at heart. He has been transferred because he lets his heart overrule a direct diktat from his English officer. He is a disciplined, controlled man who lives an orderly life, when he finds himself guarding the fort of Saragarhi with 20 other officers who are too laid back for Eshwar’s liking. Slowly and steadily, he tries to get them to partake in a regime that makes them fit to be officers. While he does face a few hinderances, within no time the officers start hoping to make Eshwar proud. Throughout this journey, his wife (Parineeti Chopra) is a constant companion.
While she is nowhere close to him physically, through his thoughts and love, Eshwar finds himself being guided by his beloved. Too soon though, Saragarhi troupe faces a real, immediate threat in the hands of the Afghani warriors who are trying to infiltrate into the region. Given they are only 21 and they are about to face a battalion of nearing 10,000 Afghanis, they call for reinforcements but instead, their British heads ask them to retreat and surrender their fortress.
But Eshwar is not about to be called a coward! How can he ask his troupe to retreat when he himself cannot shake off the sound of his superiors calling Indians cowards? Won’t his retreat reinstate his commander’s words? His men reciprocate his sentiments and decide to stand guard or die trying but not one of them would turn their backs to the Afghanis because sometimes winning your self-respect is much more important than winning a battle.
What ensues is a battle that is worthy of history pages. Akshay Kumar takes over the last half an hour of the film like a man possessed. He doesn’t leave a single stone unturned to make sure his drive, his sentiments and his patriotism reverberates through the screen onto the theatre seats. It is only this climax that makes the film worth a watch. Somehow, the first half of the film is rather too sedate to entertain.
Parineeti Chopra who has a special appearance in the film, hardly has twenty minutes of screen time and does not pack a punch. Her same expressions, same giggle and lack of imagination makes Jeevani Kaur extremely staid for this film.
While the dialogues of the film, written by the director and Girish Kohli, have a punch, it is the cinematography and production design that are applause-worthy. Anshul Chobey the cinematographer, has given the entire film a Kesari-tone (sepia) which makes the film standout by default.
The credit for the quaint looking ammunitions and the look of the fortress go to Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray, they have brought about an authenticity that Eshwar Singh’s wavy beard cannot take away.
All in all, Anurag Singh’s work is praise worthy only in the second half, making you wish he would have made the film a little shorter instead of the 150 minutes of screen time.