Sardar Udham: Story of a revolutionary etched with pain, passion and courage

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The film belongs to Vicky Kaushal, who essays the title role with subtlety and an underlying ferocity, all at once. He is a man with a single-minded mission and never loses focus…writes Troy Ribeiro

Film: Sardar Udham (Streaming on Amazon Prime); Duration: 162 minutes.
Director: Shoojit Sircar. Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Shaun Scott, Stephen Hogan, Banita Sandhu, Kristy Averton and Amol Parashar. Rating: ****

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919 may be an incident etched in the memories of all Indians owing to its mention in our history textbooks, but not many know about the valour and sacrifice of Sardar Udham Singh, an ordinary lad from the holy city, who witnessed this tragedy up close and personal.

He was haunted by the memories of that traumatic day for 21 years before he took revenge by assassinating Michael O’Dwyer, the then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, upon whose orders General Dyer opened fire.

How Udham Singh joins Bhagat Singh’s Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and moves to London and there, with the help of others who are a part of the revolutionary movement, including a British woman, Eileen Palmer, eventually manages to shoot O’Dwyer and his trial thereafter, form the crux of this film.

The tale is straightforward, albeit narrated at a languid pace, but the plot, narrated in a non-linear manner, goes back and forth in time to establish the rationale behind Udham’s resolve and provide a glimpse of his early life and his journey as a revolutionary.

The film belongs to Vicky Kaushal, who essays the title role with subtlety and an underlying ferocity, all at once. He is a man with a single-minded mission and never loses focus.

Each year of the wait to achieve his goal is a struggle and he portrays that with brutal honesty — whether it is seeking refuge under various aliases or doing odd jobs to buy time or hone his skills. His body language, broken English, unbridled confidence and fearlessness, all exude the aura of a revolutionary and freedom fighter.

The screenplay by Shubhendu Bhattacharya is taut and well-researched, throwing light on several historical facts unknown to many. The period is recreated with honesty and one is transported there.

The dialogues are crisp, yet hard-hitting, particularly O’Dwyer’s scathing speech at Caxton Hall before he is shot, reiterating that “It is the right and the duty of the British to rule India”. One can feel Udham Singh’s anger upon hearing these words, further strengthening his resolve.

The cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay is atmospheric and enriches the scenes with unparalleled brilliance. His lens brings alive each frame with candour and the story with it. Particularly noteworthy is the heart-wrenching Jallianwala Bagh massacre scene where the pain and pathos of those injured and dying are palpable.

The end of the film, may be known to us and predictable, but the surge of patriotism and the awe-inspiring feeling for Udham Singh is something Shoojit Sircar manages to arouse in each viewer. The dauntless unremorseful Udham Singh, with Bhagat Singh’s photograph in his clenched fist as he lies motionless, becomes an everlasting memory.

Overall, with a runtime of 162 minutes, there are moments when you feel the viewing is a bit tedious.

Shortlisted for India’s official entry to the Oscars

The process of selecting India’s official entry for the Academy Awards is in full swing at the Bijoli cinema in Kolkata. Leading the shortlist are the Vidya Balan-starrer “Sherni” and Shoojit Sarkar’s “Sardar Udham” starring Vicky Kaushal in the titular role. Giving them competition are 14 regional language films, including the Malayalam ‘Nayattu’ and the Tamil ‘Mandela’.

Filmmaker Shaji N. Karun and a panel of 14 other judges have been given the task of zeroing down on the film that would best represent India at the world’s largest carnival of cinema — the Oscars, which will be held on March 27, 2022, at the iconic Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Both “Sherni” and “Sardar Udham” were released to wide critical acclaim this year on Prime Video. ‘Sherni’, directed by Amit Masurkar of “Newton” fame, is the story of a woman forest officer who tries to bring things under control after a tigress runs amuck, leading to a human-animal conflict.

Vidya Balan’s performance in the film was widely applauded and the film was praised in particular for its realistic approach to storytelling and making use of humour at key places to drive home its message.

“Sardar Udham” is a historical biographical drama based on the life of Udham Singh, who assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, who was the Lt-Governor of Punjab when the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in 1919. “Sardar Udham”, directed by Shoojit Sarkar, too, has been appreciated particularly for its technical brilliance and the use of silences and moods to steer the story.

Vicky pens note to director

A day after the release of his film ‘Sardar Udham’, actor Vicky Kaushal penned a thank you note to filmmaker Shoojit Sircar for casting him in the film and giving him an experience that “took a lot out of him and gave a lot more in return.”
“Thank You @shoojitsircar Sir for taking me back in time and making me meet your #SardarUdham. An experience that took a lot out of me and gave a lot more in return,” he wrote on Instagram.

‘Sardar Udham’ is a biopic of freedom fighter Sardar Udham Singh, who assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab in British India in 1940, to avenge the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Late Irrfan Khan was originally supposed to play the role of Sardar Udham in the film. Dedicating the film to Irrfan Khan, Vicky added, “This one’s for the two friends that you always wish to keep alive, Udham Singh and Irrfan Saab.”
Alongside the heart-warming note, Vicky posted a few BTS images from the sets of the film. Vicky will be seen next in ‘Sam Bahadur’, which is based on the life of India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. (ANI)

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