Review| 'Sardar Udham' gives us one of the bleakest visions of hell in Hindi cinema. But the build-up is painfully slow

Asia's Tech News Daily

#Sardar Udham, #Shoojit Sircar

Vicky Kaushal gets to seethe and rant in ‘Sardar Udham’. But there’s no real character arc to assist him; just a few disconnected moments that are meant to add up to a sympathetic life.

How does one depict something as horrifying and as chaotic as the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre – one of the major imperialist crimes of the last century – in a narrative film? It has been done before, of course, and the cinematic possibilities are obvious – but how to do it authentically, unflinchingly, yet without making it seem gratuitous, and preserving some respect for the victims (even if most of them – screaming, jostling past each other, falling to randomly directed bullets, jumping into a well – weren’t given that dignity in real life)?

Watching the long climactic sequence of Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar Udham – the story of the revolutionary who assassinated a former Punjab lieutenant governor in London in 1940, as revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh carnage – is to realise that as much can be done with the aftermath of the massacre as with the actual killing. Around three-fourths of the way through this long and often inert film comes this deathly still vision of hell, among the bleakest that mainstream Hindi cinema has given us. The tragedy has unfolded: with the British general shouting orders, people screaming, bullets ripping bodies apart, leaving severed limbs in their wake. And then, when it is over, the young Sher Singh (Vicky Kaushal) finds himself on the site, trying to process the enormity of what has happened while also trying to save as many of the still-living as he can.

From the images of the wounded dragging themselves back home if they could, to the ones of Sher Singh retrieving bodies, this scene becomes more compelling through the prolonged repetitiveness of some images: the young man wading through gore, looking for signs of life, lifting people onto his small cart, wheeling them to the small makeshift medical centre; and then again, and again, and again.

The sequence as a whole serves two functions: one, to reclaim Jallianwala Bagh from dry textbook accounts and our dulled sepia-tinted impressions, and convey something of what it must have felt like to be there. (In its conception, the scene reminded me of the famous opening sequence of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, which presents a ground-level view of the 1944 Normandy landing.) And two, to provide a full sense of how Sher Singh’s life changed shape and direction: the transformation of a 20-year-old in the middle of his most carefree years into a man with a single, life-consuming purpose.

However, as powerful as these Amritsar scenes are, the question is: do they come too late in a generally flabby, uneven film? The main reason why I had stuck with Sardar Udham till this point was because I was reviewing it; it is easy to imagine regular viewers getting distracted and bored and switching off midway through.

****

Sardar Udham opens with Sher Singh – later known as Ude and Udham as he uses various aliases and passports – being released from prison in India in 1931 (he was incarcerated because of his revolutionary activities, including illegal arms possession). We see the single-mindedness of someone who has no further need of ordinary life. (“Sab ne phanda hee choomne hain na?” – “You all yearn for the noose” his cousin says when he briefly returns home.) This is followed by glimpses of his journey to England via the USSR, along with vignettes from his past, including his participation in the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republican Association). At this point the film is as much a travelogue as anything else, with circumstances and personality leading a man into a much wider world than the one he was born into.

In London, Udham establishes contacts with other Indian freedom fighters and socialists, searches the phone book for his target – Michael O’Dwyer, who had facilitated the Jallianwala Bagh firing – and seethes inwardly as British radio refers to “the Amritsar affair of 1919”. The story abruptly leaps ahead a few years to show the assassination (all this within the first half-hour) and then the film returns to its restless, searching, non-linear structure. While he is interrogated and tortured in prison, we see more flashbacks: comradeship with Bhagat Singh (Amol Parashar) in Lahore; a hesitant romance with a mute girl (the second time, after October, that Banita Sandhu has played a silent cipher in a Shoojit Sircar film, though thankfully Sardar Udham steers away from making her character the main reason for Udham’s thirst for revenge). There are also scenes depicting his years in London leading up to the killing of O’Dwyer, including a connection – tenuously depicted – with a British woman named Eileen, and with the Irish Republican Army. (“You lamb, me lamb. Butcher same.”)

For much of its running time, it feels like the cold damp atmosphere of London has pervaded the film itself. The heat and dust and boisterousness of Udham’s Punjab are nowhere to be found in these scenes (except maybe in a little moment where an excited Udham exclaims “Tussi jaande ho?! (You know him?!)” at a British woman when she mentions Bhagat Singh’s name) – and this is understandable, since part of the point being made here is that this young man has had to travel far from his roots; to get revenge on behalf of the land he loves, he has had to make the sacrifice of moving away from that land to a cold, culturally remote place and trying to fit in there. This is an especially poignant aspect of the Udham Singh story – one that separates him from the freedom fighters who stayed in India and died on their own soil – and the film does a decent job of suggesting it.

The point is also made early on that Udham isn’t concerned so much with big-picture equality or justice as with the specific matter of his country’s enslavement: if as an Indian he isn’t free, then how can he march with free people seeking other forms of equality and campaigning for other social causes, he says. But if he is focused and pragmatic, Sardar Udham soon becomes very diffused in its bird’s-eye view of history – at times it feels like it is seduced by its own scale. Despite its visual elegance and the believability of the art design and period detailing (or even because of these things), it starts to play like a protracted history lesson weighed down by the need to engage with everything going on at the time: WWII, the realpolitik between Britain, Russia and Germany, the IRA conflict. There are conversations between Winston Churchill and King George VI, between O’Dwyer and General Reginald Dyer, that are well-staged but scarcely serve the narrative’s purpose.

#Sardar Udham, #Shoojit Sircar

At one point it even feels like the man at the centre of the story is in danger of being forgotten. There isn’t much access to Udham’s inner state of mind, notwithstanding a couple of scenes (one in a courtroom, one with a tramp in Hyde Park) where he delivers pedantic and flat-sounding speeches about freedom. Here and elsewhere, Vicky Kaushal gets to seethe and rant but with no real character arc to assist him, just a few disconnected moments that are meant to add up to a sympathetic life. By the time we arrive at the (invented) subplot about Udham working for O’Dwyer as an all-round handyman, with a conversation between the two that makes sense only as a fever-dream, cinematic energy has gone out the window.

It returns, as indicated above, with the 1919 Amritsar sequence where the film’s deliberately slow pacing is finally put to powerful use and Kaushal gets to bring his acting chomps to a scene that deserves it. There is, of course, much dramatic licence here – the staging makes it seem like Udham was almost the only person helping the wounded for hours after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre – but a certain amount of drama is a welcome relief after all the stiff-upper lip coolness that came before. And the image of a young Sikh boy moving numbly through a sea of dead and wounded, trying mechanically to help, barely realising how much he has already been changed by this experience, is a very striking one. But again, does this climax vindicate the static earlier sections of the film?

Paradoxically, Sardar Udham manages to be both a quiet, minimalist film (if you watch its individual scenes in isolation) AND a bloated one (in terms of its overall narrative arc). As a fan of Sircar’s earlier work, especially his films with Juhi Chaturvedi – the lean, to-the-point storytelling of Piku or Vicky Donor or October – this was disappointing; this could easily have been a shorter film while retaining everything necessary to tell its story and without sacrificing its measured pace. Or, given its level of ambition, maybe it should have gone for a different format and been a series instead.

A footnote

More than 50 years ago, in London in 1970, Hrishikesh Mukherjee shot parts of a film titled Man from India, with Parikshit Sahni in the lead as Udham Singh. It was a prestige project with contributions by Utpal Dutt and Parikshit’s father Balraj Sahni, and might have been a fascinating work if it had achieved the stately, novelistic quality of Mukherjee’s recent Satyakam. Unfortunately the film was shelved for reasons that are unclear; years later, one of its producers managed to cobble together a version with some star value provided by Vinod Khanna (in a supporting role but top billed) – it was eventually released as Jallian Wala Bagh and sank without a trace despite a few points of interest such as Gulzar in an acting part as Udham Singh’s friend who points out Michael O’Dwyer to him in London.

While it is pointless to speculate about what Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Udham Singh film would have looked like, it’s safe to assume that it would have been very different in tone from Sardar Udham, which belongs to a much more restrained, detail-extensive and outwardly polished filmmaking culture.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Hundreds of FedEx Packages Were Found Dumped in a Ravine, Driver Under Investigation

There’s the old adage about letters seemingly getting ‘lost in the mail’ or the all too familiar and unfortunate reality of packages being delayed thanks to the pandemic and supply ... Read more »

Labor Board Official Orders Revote on Forming Union for Alabama Amazon Warehouse Workers

A labor board official has ordered a revote for Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama regarding forming the company’s first unionized warehouse in the United States. PATRICK T. FALLON | Getty Images The ... Read more »

Musk Laments 'Supply Chain Nightmare' Facing Cybertruck Production

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk on Monday lamented the ongoing supply chain difficulties facing the release of the company’s much-delayed Cybertruck and said he will share updates about the new electric vehicle when the company reports its ... Read more »

Elon Musk Speaks Out on New Twitter CEO

The social-media world went into a frenzy Monday after Twitter CEO and founder Jack Dorsey announced that he would be stepping down from his role at the media company. picture ... Read more »

Lululemon Hits Peloton With a Lawsuit for Its 'Knockoff' Designs

Last week, Peloton sued fellow athletic brand Lululemon after the latter threatened to take legal action if Peloton kept selling its new clothes. On Monday, Lululemon followed through on its ultimatum and filed ... Read more »

Redmi Note 10, other budget smartphones under the series go out of stock on Mi.com

To make way for the next generation, it seems like Xiaomi has limited the stock of the Redmi Note 10 series in India via its official channels. The upcoming Redmi ... Read more »

Vegan en Vogue: Here's Why Some of the Biggest Events of the Year are Nixing Meat from Their Menus

For nearly two years, virtually every cultural event has been canceled, or at least dramatically scaled back for the sake of COVID-19 safety precautions. After a year of parties and ... Read more »

Stephen Colbert Ribs Jeff Bezos and His 'Penis Rocket'

On Monday night, The Late Show host Stephen Colbert used his opening monologue to skewer consumer habits amid yet another holiday-shopping season. Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images Colbert wished his ... Read more »

Budweiser's First NFT Collection Sells Out Within an Hour

On Monday, Budweiser joined the non-fungible token craze with the launch of its first collection of unique pieces of digital art — depictions of beer cans that sold for hundreds of dollars ... Read more »

Forget the "New Normal." There's No Normal in Marketing.

Over the past 18 months, companies navigating the pandemic have dealt with numerous changes to seemingly every facet of work. Beyond shifts in daily routines, work lives, and social behavior, ... Read more »

This Crypto-Fueled Internet Collective Raised More Than $40 Million to Buy a Rare Copy of the Constitution

The United States Constitution is more than just another document: It’s the foundation upon which this entire country has been built. In the most significant possible sense, it’s what attempts to ... Read more »

The Use Of Recycled Plastics In Packaging Of Food And Drinks Needs To Be Re-Deliberated: Experts

LawWiser, India’s first video-only knowledge-sharing platform for the legal community, today released a consultation paper on ‘The Dilemma of Recycling Plastics in India’. The objective of this consultation paper is ... Read more »

Vehicles Rental Industry Is booming With Technological Advancements

With the evolving technology and innovative ideas, it has been made easy for emerging startups to enter the market and establish their identity in the respective domain that they cater ... Read more »

Key Agritech Trends To Expect In 2022

Investors’ interest in agritech startups has increased tremendously today as agritech is one of the few sectors that not only survived but thrived during the pandemic.  According to industry reports, ... Read more »

Watch: New Navy chief takes mother's blessings on taking charge

Admiral Hari Kumar was serving as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command before his elevation. Admiral R Hari Kumar took over as the country’s Navy chief, succeeding ... Read more »

Rihanna declared national hero of Barbados as island becomes republic

Rihanna was honored as a National Hero at Barbados’s Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. Fireworks filled the sky over Barbados on Tuesday as the Caribbean island nation declared itself the world’s newest ... Read more »

OnePlus 9 price in India is lower than OnePlus 9R ahead of rumoured OnePlus 9RT launch

Customers can also claim the OnePlus 9 discount offer on the company’s official website. OnePlus 9 price in India at launch was set at Rs 49,999. The premium smartphone under ... Read more »

What's the fuss about Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal's tweet from 11 years ago?

Parag Agrawal was appointed as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Twitter on Monday. Parag Agrawal, who took over as the new head of Twitter, shot from relative obscurity as ... Read more »

Storyboard18 | ‘I can tell a story, and the moral of that story can be your product or service': aiyyoshraddha

Shraddha Jain is popularly known on the Internet as aiyyoshraddha. Shraddha Jain spent nine years as a radio jockey and then some time working in the television industry where she ... Read more »

What Does 2022 Hold For India's D2C Market?

India’s D2C market is on an all-time rise and is not set to slow down anytime soon. While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly gave way to business disruptions across verticals, categorically ... Read more »

Redmi Note 11T 5G launched in India to take on Realme 8s 5G, Lava Agni 5G

Redmi Note 11T 5G specifications include a MediaTek Dimensity 810 SoC and a 5000 mAh battery. Redmi Note 11T 5G launched in India is Xiaomi’s new budget 5G smartphone under ... Read more »

Elliot Page, 'Juno' star, shows off six-packs in shirtless mirror selfie

Elliot Page came out as transgender in December 2020. Actor Elliot Page on Monday showed off his six-packs in a selfie on Instagram, almost a year after he came out ... Read more »

"Agrawal ji ka beta": As Parag Agrawal becomes Twitter CEO, memes galore

Parag Agrawal, 37, holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. Minutes after Parag Agrawal ... Read more »

And now Twitter. Global tech giants run by CEOs who grew up in India

Sundar Pichai | CEO, Alphabet | Google CEO Sundar Pichai was born in Tamil Nadu capital Chennia and grew up in the city. Pichai received a B. Tech from the ... Read more »

Matthew McConaughey: Alright, Alright, Alright, I'm Not Running for Texas Governor

Last night, Matthew McConaughey took to social media and delivered what amounted to the most dramatically drawn out non-announcement in modern political history.  In a three-plus-minute address, the Oscar-winning actor ... Read more »

Watch: Delivery driver in Dubai risks life to save injured stray dog

Parvez Alam with the stray dog he rescued from a busy road in Dubai. The pooch is currently under medical care. (Image credit: Photo shared by Lyve Global on Instagram) ... Read more »

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Expected to Step Down, Sources Say

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is expected to leave his executive role, sources tell CNBC.  Dorsey is currently the CEO of both Twitter and Square, his digital-payments company.  Twitter stakeholder Elliott ... Read more »

Elon Musk Urges Tesla Employees to Stop Rushing Deliveries

Though customers may be well into their holiday season spending habits, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has asked employees to pump the brakes on rushing Q4 orders in order to hit ... Read more »

5 Unicorn Founders Share Key Learnings From Their Early Mistakes

In his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that India is leading the world in the startup field with more than 70 startups ... Read more »

A jobseeker stood at London tube station with a placard. Viral LinkedIn post landed him a job

Haider Malik poses with his placard outside a tube station in London and (right) Malik after begging his new job. (Image credit: Photo uploaded by Haider Malik on LinkedIn.) Four ... Read more »

This artist claims to have made "world's whitest white paint"

“White 2.0” is over 50 per cent brighter than the best-selling white acrylic paint, Stuart Semple claims. British artist Stuart Semple has launched what he calls the “world’s whitest white ... Read more »

Realme GT 2 Pro design, price and specifications leaked on day of launch confirmation

The Realme GT 2 Pro camera module’s horizontal bar houses a triple-camera setup with two LED flash cutouts. It is said to have two 50MP camera sensors, which are likely ... Read more »

10 things to do at the 2021 Hornbill Festival in Nagaland

The 2021 Hornbill Music Festival at Kisama is from December 2–10, 6 PM to 9 PM. The 16 major tribes of Nagaland—the Angami, the Rengma, the Zeliang, the Kuki, the Kachari, ... Read more »

Coinstore Enters India Amid Pending Crypto Ban

 At a time when the Indian government is preparing legislation to effectively bar private cryptocurrencies, Singapore-based Coinstore, a crypto future and spot trading exchange, announced its foray into the Indian ... Read more »

Thanksgiving tradition: After grandma accidentally invited teen in 2016, duo celebrate 6th year together

Thanksgiving 2021: Wanda Dench holds up a photo of her late husband Lonnie as she, Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela pose for a photo on Thanksgiving. (Image credit: Photo ... Read more »

Parliament winter session: Shashi Tharoor, in selfie with women MPs, says Lok Sabha "an attractive place to work"

Parliament winter session: Shashi Tharoor tweeted a photo with women MPs. The winter session of parliament opened on a rather colourful note for Shashi Tharoor. The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram ... Read more »

Watch: Truck spills thousands of dollars on California highway. People rush to scoop cash

The freeway free-for-all began after a door of the armored truck flew open near San Diego. (Image credit: Screengrab from video Instagrammed by @demibagby) An armored truck spilled huge wads ... Read more »

Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton's first black creative head, dies; Priyanka Chopra, Karan Johan pay tributes

Virgil Abloh was picked as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection in 2018. Virgil Abloh, top American fashion designer, died on Sunday after battling cancer. He was 41. ... Read more »

Realme 9i launch details leaked; could feature MediaTek Helio G90T

Realme 9i will be launched ahead of the Realme 9 and the Realme 9 Pro. Realme 9i launch timeline has leaked. According to a new report, the budget smartphone from ... Read more »

Indian Oil ad says fuel voucher "perfect gift" for weddings. How Twitter reacted

Indian Oil has released fuel voucher promotional messages for weddings, Diwali and Dhanteras. (Image credit: Photo tweeted by @IndianOilcl) Indian Oil Corp Ltd (IOC), the country’s top refiner, recently came ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic