Anurag Singh’s ‘Kesari’ is really pulling the crowds in this holiday weekend, but is it worth watching? Read on to find out.
In the late 19th century, the British are locked in a strategic stand-off with the Afghans in the Northwest Frontier Province. To counter the constant Afghani onslaughts, they establish the 36th Sikh Regiment to man three forts in the area. Saragarhi Fort, the smallest of the three, is used as a communication point between the two larger forts.
Havildar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar), is transferred to Saragarhi as punishment for disobeying the orders of his superior officer, as ‘nothing ever happens here’. When a force of 10,000 Afghan soldiers, attacks Saragarhi without warning; the 21 Sikh soldiers stationed there, decide to fight to the last breath.
This is based on a true story.
The story is the real star of the show. Based on true events, the battle of Saragarhi has been lauded throughout history. Unfortunately, in true Bollywood style, many aspects have been unnecessarily added in, or dramatized too much. Akshay Kumar’s films like ‘Gold’ (review here), are often tailored to make him stand out above everyone else. In this film, his self-glorification works. Ishar Singh’s extraordinary valour was recorded by the last standing soldier, who sent messages to his British superiors throughout the battle.
The first half of the film should’ve been shorter. Kumar’s character has a tendency to be unrealistically goody-two-shoes. These fripperies could’ve been done away with, as the recorded events are remarkable in themselves.
The film is well-made, if excessively gory and violent. Kumar is fantastic, and has a grip on his character. Each soldier/ actor is well-cast and makes a strong mark. The cinematography and special effects are decent, though not the best I’ve seen in recent times. The music is subtle and effective, and costumes are brilliant. The film has some stunning visuals, despite the arid landscape its set in. At various points, the film shocks you, makes you laugh and moves you to tears.
I only wish the film-makers had resisted the urge to glorify the Sikhs further, through the unnecessary sub-plots. A crisp film that focused solely on the battle, could’ve been a masterpiece.
The gore, bloodshed and excessive nationalism is not in good taste. However, I do appreciate the message the film sends out. War is a political decision, not a religious one. Religion is only used to propagate the will to fight, in young innocent minds. I hope our political heads and the millions of citizens who’ve been baying for war in recent times, see the intended message of this film. “Kesari” is not a glorification of war, but a stark commentary on the futility of it. To use Kumar’s line, “har koi bandook chala leta hai, par dushmano ko paani sab nahi pila sakte” (anyone can use a gun, but not everyone can make the wounded enemies drink water).
On pure cinematic quality, the film is above average, but it’s an effective use of the cinematic medium to tell a powerful story. As Kumar’s character states in the film, “Hum yeh jung tab hi jeet gaye the, jab humne isse ladne ka faisla kiya” (we won this battle, the moment we decided to fight it). I wholeheartedly agree, this film was a winner the moment its filmmakers decided to make it. I recommend it as worth watching.
Film rating: 3.75/5
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