Swatantrya Veer Savarkar: A committed Randeep Hooda can't save this politically charged biopic from defeating its own purpose!

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar review: This film could have been an educational history lesson on Savarkar if it hadn't been a three-hour-long, tedious, one-sided commentary! 

Sakshi Sharma
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Swatantrya Veer Savarkar

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar

Biopics are films that represent their subject's life to tell you about their story, who, and what their beliefs are as a person. Swatantyra Veer Savarkar is not that film! This film starts with a line that we have been told that non-violence gave us our freedom, but this is not the film, stating that this is not just a film about Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's life, a determined visionary ideologist leader and a self-proclaimed 'veer' who spread the concept of Hindutva! Instead, it is an attempt to give him his due credit and place in history after being wronged by a specific ruling party.

We see a committed Randeep Hooda go from being a young visionary Savarkar to one of the crucial members of the freedom-fighting struggle. Various chapters of Savarkar's life are portrayed juxtaposed with his ideologies and beliefs - The mutiny of 1897, which was the first revolution of the freedom struggle of India, his rebellious days of studying in Pune college, his marriage to the loyal Yamuna (Ankita Lokhande), starting an organization of Abhinav Bharat with his elder brother (Amit Sial), his time at London's India's House, meeting other revolutionaries and learning about revolutions of Itlay and Russia, his arrest and deportation to India, his torturous years in the Kala Paani Jail, and his god-like rise amongst the people who aligned with his beliefs after his release from many years in jail. 

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It is not that the film might be factually inaccurate or incorrect; after all, history is written by human beings and is perceptible to bias. Hence, the film's strategy to correct course and bring forth omitted chapters of history, including other freedom fighters with Savarkar, isn't bad. But it falters when it borrows Savarkar's blindsidedness and only wants to focus on telling his point of view. This ends up creating caricature portrayals of Nehru as a friend of the Britishers and a casanova flirting with girls, Jinnah as an evil-looking, ambitious leader desperately seeking Pakistan, and the wrongful Congress. Lok Manya Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bikaji Cama, and even Madan Lal Dhingra become food for tokenism only to further Savarkar's magnanimous stature and journey. Even Savarkar, at times, isn't spared generalization. Half the time, we see him inducting people and taking oaths with his hand up in the air rather than understanding his ideology intricately. 

The film's staging, cinematography, and lighting are created to create a dramatic effect that pleases the viewer, and it mainly works. Case in point, the array of freedom fighters, including Bhagat Singh, framed with the screen pitch to black and the noose hanging around their necks in front of them is pretty compelling, but the film's editing plays with you. The intercut of Madan Lal Dhingra's face in front of the noose to Mahatma Gandhi's speech on non-violence makes it look like they are portraying Gandhi as a joke. This is an inherent problem with this biopic, which also wants to be an account of the making of a nation. Instead of depicting the ideological differences between Mahatma Gandhi and Savarkar, the film shows Gandhi in the wrong and Savarkar in the right. 

Randeep Hooda's dedication to being this fiery intellectual leader fighting his fight is commendable. His body transforms from lean, malnourished to rotted teeth; his commanding voice, gait, stature, and everything is admirable but not enough. You are in awe of Hooda's skills during Savarkar's tortured years in Kala Paani (one of the toughest jails to survive), but you don't feel bad. It is hard to connect with the film emotionally; even the scenes where the brothers meet each other after years of living in the same jail or when Savarkar's son dies don't evoke much feeling! 

Hooda reigns in what is expected of him as an actor but falls short as a first-time director, co-producer, and writer. The film's tone of worshipping its protagonist makes Savarkar a god-like figure who can't do anything wrong. Fanaticism overpowers his intellectualism; for better or worse, it fails to bring his ideology forward. You only see his intellectual power thoroughly mixed with his convincing oratorship when he speaks directly to the audience about Hindutva, how it is not about religion but about everyone who practices their faith, which makes everyone Hindu, whether Muslims or Sikhs. 

Ironically, in the wake of criticizing Congress for spinning headlines about Savarkar, Bhagat Singh, and Chandra Shekhar Azad as cowards opting for a violent approach other than Gandhi's non-violence approach, the film isn't a long walk away from turning into the same as it focuses on one-sided narrative of seeking justice for Savarkar instead of focusing on Savarkar's fight against Britisher's divide and rule and pushing for an Akhaand Bharat. But if Swatantrya Veer Savarkar teaches anything, it is how we should learn to differentiate between fact and fiction and take responsibility for reading more about everything we watch to create our opinions. 

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar is currently in theatres! 

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