Cast: Akshay Kumar, Govind Namdev, Mir Sarwar, Rajpal Yadav, Vansh Bhardwaj, Parineeti Chopra
Director: Anurag Singh
Rating - 3/5
Akshay Kumar's Kesari hit the screen this week, which is set in the British Era of 1897. The film begins with Havaldar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) explaining to his friend, the politics of the British, Afghans, Pathans and the Indians. He describes the quagmire in the sub-continent to be a result of a feud between the husband (British), wife (Afghans), and an affair of the latter with Pathans and Russians. As for Indians, Singh calls them 'baraatis' (wedding guests) stuck in the confusion.
Well explained for the uninitiated in Indian history! And as we see in the movie, the venue of the 'marriage-from-hell' is India and well, the 'baraatis' seem to be from the husband's side and like him a little more than they like the wife, little!
Though the film repeatedly highlights the spirit of Seva and courage that the Sikh Community is known for, it is based on the battle of Saragarhi, where 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikh regiment fought 10,000 Afghans.
It is Havaldar Ishar Singh, who leads the regiment to the unwinnable and gruesome war with the 'lawless and unethical' Afghans. Though they serve the British, it is before this war, that Ishar Singh inspires his regiment to fight as free men for their community and against the long subjugation, "first under the Mughals and now the British."
Thus begin some well-shot battle sequences and one-to-one sword fights.
Like the one where the Pathans reach the battlefield with reverberating drums. The sequence will remind of the Orcs entering the scene in the Oscar-winning 'The Lord Of The Rings'. And it is equally powerful in the way it is shot.
But there are some over-dramatised parts here, that doesn't suit the mood of the film- which seems to be more of a tribute and less of a jingoism act. According to Kesari, wars begin with drum face-offs because platoons carry their own background music to the battlefield (now you know where the epic battle music came from!). There are a lot of 'Allahu-Akbars' and in-your-face evil Maulvis and look-how-barbaric-we-are Afghan soldiers (again similar to the orcs and bests in the LOTR). There are predictable sequences like a rebellious regiment of subordinates and a token scene of the British flaunting their supremacy! Kesari may not be your cup-of-tea if you are not in a mood for an over-dramatic flick. That's what makes most of the second half of Kesari after a rather slow first half.
Released when the Lok Sabha Elections are around the corner, Kesari was also put in the box of a propaganda film by some. It does sail on the theme of Nationalism when it is also the point of campaigning for some political parties. With religion as the dividing force between the good and evil, the film does make 'community' as the major reason why the regiment fights. While the other side has waged 'Jihad' on them. It is a theme that the already volatile atmosphere did not need at this time. (An aftermath of the Pulwama Terror Attack, New Zealand Shooting and instances of communal discord in India).
All said and done, the film is an excellent tribute to the courage of the 36th Sikh Regiment. Their humane side (they build a mosque for the Pathans, offer water to the enemies) will make you question, "Why were such souls wasted for a British war!"
Right then a wise man from the film answers- "Jung, sarhadein, sab karobaar hai (Wars and border, it is all business)." Just like the religion and politics that they are respectively built and fought for!
Akshay Kumar has time and again proved himself to be the new-age Manoj Kumar, with added action sequences and cute romantic angles. Go watch Kesari for the tribute it pays to the spirit of Sikh Community and some well-shot action scenes. For, it is just the right shade of saffron!