I always feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to review films and share it with my audience. However, analyzing content isn’t easy. I have to look at all aspects of a film and understand if everything fits well. Let me be honest, it is not an easy task. Let’s take the analogy of food. How easy would it be to examine a single ingredient that went into preparing the dish? Additionally, if the food is bad, it wouldn’t matter if it’s your favorite dish or whether it’s prepared by your favorite chef. I had a similar conundrum while watching Shershaah that was released today on Amazon Prime.
Directed by Vishnu Varadhan, Shershaah is a biographical war film that traces the life of Param Vir Chakra (India’s highest military recognition) awardee and army Captain Vikram Batra played by Sidharth Malhotra. The film starts at Capt. Batra’s childhood and goes on to depict the valor and courage that he portrayed while leading one of the toughest operations in mountain warfare in Indian history during the 1999 Kargil War. The film also stars Kiara Advani, who plays the role of Capt. Batra’s fiance Dimple Cheema.
Before I go on with my review, I want to acknowledge that Capt. Vikram Batra is a national hero and the sacrifice he made for the country would be unmatched till the end of time. My analysis (below) is purely related to the storytelling aspect of the film and I feel not everyone will agree with my point of view and I’m fine with that.
Right from the trailer, I absolutely loved the visual grammar of the film. Kamaljeet Negi’s cinematography, Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production design elevates the film to one of top war films that we have seen so far. When it comes to music, I have always believed that songs should complement the film’s storyline rather than being force fed to the audience. I was glad to see that Shershaah’s music did just that. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s melodious music along with all the four soulful songs helps us discover the softer side to Capt. Vikram Batra’s life.
In order to prepare for the film, Sidharth Malhotra met Capt. Vikram Batra’s family and even visited his house. Malhotra even went through the physical training to understand the body language of an army officer. However, I am not sure if it translated enough on the big screen.
Sidharth Malhotra was still Sidharth Malhotra while portraying the character. What I mean is that Capt. Vikram Batra used to have a thick North Indian accent. However, during the entire film Malhotra’s dialect was still very polished making it hard for me to imagine him as Capt. Batra. If that wasn’t enough, we live in a world with some of the best technicians in terms of make-up and prosthetics. Yet, the film-makers did not pay attention to transforming Malhotra’s look to match Capt. Vikram Batra. If you need a point of reference, look at Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Thackeray or Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju. On the contrary, I was surprised at the costume and wardrobe department of the film as Malhotra’s younger look was very similar to Shah Rukh Khan’s look from his early days. So much so that there were times, I had to pause the film just to double check on the actor. Even for Kiara Advani, her Punjabi diction was very basic and did not feel organic.
While I understand this is a war biopic however, as creators, I feel we are at the stage in which we could empower our society by redesigning a few templates that we are used to seeing. Rather than showing our neighbor’s as pure evil, we could do a better job by acknowledging the unrest that occurs on both sides of the border due to war. There was a scene in which Pakistan’s flag was dropped to the floor to hoist Indian flag. While I am absolutely proud of our tricolor flag, I feel dropping another country’s flag on the ground is something we could do without. Anyway, that’s just my two cents!
India has created some of the best war films such as Uri, Lakshya, Border, etc. All these films make us jump out of our seats and make us cheer for our brave Jawans at the border. I have no doubt that watching Shershaah will make the audience root for Capt. Vikram Batra; his heroics and bravery. However, if we take away the patriotic element of Capt. Vikram Batra, the film’s storytelling and its technical prowess fell short for me and left me disappointed.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel