Sarbjit’s was a tragic story, anyway you look at it. A young man with a loving family was incarcerated in a Pakistani jail, oscillating between execution, life in prison or even freedom. Given the roller-coaster ride of his fate, any man would have lost his equilibrium. For us, what he went through is a mystery – how did he react to the situation and how did he adapt to life in a hostile country with almost no hope of finding compassion? One of the prisoners released from the Pakistani jail had mentioned that Sarbjit, along with another Indian prisoner had converted to Islam in hopes of getting a favourable deal from the Pakistani authorities. Was it true?
When you make a biopic, viewers want some insight into such issues. The film Sarbjit tends to ignore these pertinent questions. Very little leg work has gone into researching the project. There’s only one view-point, that of his sister Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai). The film starts off in a very filmy way with Sarbjit (Randeep Hooda) dancing with pigeons on both his arms. He lives with his wife Sukhpreet (Richa Chadda), two little daughters, father and sister Dalbir. Once Sarbjit is arrested in Pakistan for illegally crossing over, Dalbir leaves no stone unturned to prove her brother’s innocence.
From here on, the film is more about Dalbir than Sarbjit. How she stalks the corridors of power in India to get the officials to work for Sarbjit’s freedom. On the Pakistani side, she is helped by a lawyer Awaid Shaikh (Darshan Kumaar). Omung Kumar has gone for the tear glands as far as the treatment of the film is concerned. Sarbjit’s is a poignant story and could have made an interesting film without having to resort to jingoism and melodrama.
Coming to performance, Aishwarya Rai in the central role is miscast. She does not look or sound like a sardarni. Given that most of the dialogues are in Punjabi, Aishwarya’s accent fluctuates wildly. There is a lot of screaming reminiscent of her performance in Jazbaa. The scene where she admonishes a Pakistani mob and aggressively uses her index finger to scold a Pakistani security official in their own land is way over-the-top. It actually takes away from the film if you are portraying it as a true story. Randeep Hooda is good initially, however he too falls prey to over the top performance in the later parts of the film. His incarcerated Sarbjit looks more mad than anguished, evoking pity rather than empathy. Richa Chadhha has very little screen time, but she has delivered in the one scene afforded to her in her confrontation with her sister-in-law Dalbir.
The production values of the film are good. However the film sorely needed a script supervisor. While Aishwarya Rai ages in literally every scene, Richa Chadha curiously remains the same throughout the 2 decades shown in the film. Also Aishwarya Rai’s complexion changes from scene to scene.
Sarbjit’s story didn’t need stars, it needed solid actors. However, having gotten one, Omung Kumar designed the whole film as a “star vehicle” rather than a poignant story told shorn of theatrics. The story in itself has the potential on par with the 1984 film “Saaransh” or the more recent “Neerja”, however the film at best is a tear inducing Bollywood melodrama.
Poster: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49606639
Rating : 2/5
Starring: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Darshan Kumar
Director: Omung Kumar