Sardar Udham goes beyond being a historical biopic and tells you the story of a revolution by making you feel the pain of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
When Udham Singh aka Vicky Kaushal tells a Britisher that the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is probably just mentioned in your books, as an Indian this hits you as well. Why? Because for most Indians, April 13, 1919, is a date we remember only for our history exams, not for the mass murder of hundreds of innocents that went on to ignite a fire of revolution. Sardar Udham by Soojit Sircar on Amazon Prime Video brings to life everything that happened during and after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
It’s a film based on the life of Udham Singh, a rather unknown Indian revolutionary who was behind the assassination of the Englishman, Michael O’Dwyer, the man responsible for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Without watching the film, the story looks like a journey of a man who was hell-bent on revenge and ended up taking it by shooting four bullets into the chest of Michael O’Dwyer in the heart of London. But the way Shubhendu Bhattacharya, Ritesh Shah, and Soojit Sircar have crafted the film speaks much more of a revolution than revenge. This film could easily fall into being a cliche, chest-thumping desh bhakti-filled narration of a historical chapter but it doesn’t. Udham Singh is mostly regarded as an international man of mystery and the film actually maintains that. It immerses you wholly and solely into the massacre, the revolution of Udham, the assassination, and the aftermath of it. It’s as if the film has a single-track mind and it revolves just around that which works really well for the film.
The film starts with Udham Singh getting out of jail in 1931 and starting his nomadic journey towards his goal. There are no details about his childhood or his personality. The structure of the film is tough to follow and a little slow but allows each moment to be scrapped bit by bit, giving the audience some breathing space to not just register the information but feel it. In the first twenty minutes of the film, Udham ends up killing O’Dwyer and the rest is his journey through the aftermath, tortures, and interviews that are intercutting with the flashbacks of the past that lead him here. How he managed to dodge the authorities, traveled to the U.K, the U.S.S.R., worked at a factory, become a lingerie salesman, and house help, all of this is covered in the movie. Along with his association with the H.S.R.A aka the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, his friend, inspiration, and mentor Bhagat Singh, his many passports and names, and his tattoo Ram Mohammad Singh Azad.
And finally the long-lasting scene of the massacre. It immerses you into the violence and its impact. The entire massacre is placed at the end of the film which leaves you feeling numb. Such evil can break any laddoo-loving simple man and turn him into a revolutionary. It was a haunting and heartbreaking scene where Udham and everyone including the neighbors, doctors, and nurses are exhausted and drenched in blood, struggling to save any and everyone, and then the constant shouts of these haunting words – “Koi Zinda Hai?” This leaves a long-lasting impact on you much after the film is over. What builds up the screenplay is the recreation of London and India of that era by DOP Avik Mukhopadhyay, production designer Mansi Dhruv Mehta and Dmitrii Malich.
There are some actors who are great then there are some actors who are just like water. Just as the water takes the shape of the vessel it’s poured into, they do the same and Vicky Kaushal is that actor who becomes what the movie demands of him. He is brilliant as Udham Singh but so are the supporting Amol Prashar, Banita Sandhu, and all British actors. For the first time in Hindi cinema, this film shows white men as fleshed-out humanistic characters instead of simply being certified foreigners (goras). Amol as Bhagat Singh and Banita as a mute person get very little screen time but they leave a lasting impact. Probably what doesn’t go well is this film has a run time of two hours and forty-five minutes and a lot of it is in English. But nonetheless, it makes for worth the watch and Amol’s dialogues as Bhagat Singh is a message about revolution and revolutionaries that we all needed to hear!
But that’s enough from us let’s look at what the janta is saying about Sardar Udham!
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