Sam Bahadur review: Swagger hai, sweetie, lekin soul nahi hai
What: Sam Bahadur - This film traces the life and times of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, from the time when he was a young gentleman cadet until the day of his retirement. How he survived nine bullets to his abdomen, was a great leader of soldiers, he fought for the rights of the soldiers, won the 1971 war for us, loved his wife but loved his nation more and finally retired. There’s real war footage inserted in the film to add to the authenticity of the film. Sounds tedious? It is.
Sam Bahadur movie review
Vicky Kaushal has worked very hard to imitate the slouch, the smile, the stride. His moustache looks real as well. His swagger as a leader is evident. He delivers speeches that suddenly include ‘sweetie’. It’s an attempt to add a bit of levity for the folks who are easily pleased. But after ten minutes of his ‘acting’, you want to see more than just a documentation of what was a heroic life. The director Meghna Gulzar takes a sledgehammer and slams everything about General Manekshaw into the audience. Sure, he fought five wars for India, but this is a biopic. A little pause from his greatness would have been helpful, no?
Sure, he’s shown brushing his dog’s teeth, and reassuring the soldier who is worried about the accusations in the hearings being conducted against the General, but the incidents don’t manage to get through to your heart. It’s forced. The same Vicky Kaushal who came across as a good soldier in Uri - where you wanted the soldiers to succeed, comes across as aware that he has to act in a certain way.
Plus, the indefatigable ‘inspiring rousing background music’ that accompanies his presence on the screen (which means the marching band is present from the first scene to the end of the film and carries through the end credits). You take refuge in black coffee.
Sanya Malhotra plays the wife of the general quite well, but the South Indian cook steals the scene every time the General is home with the wife. He complains about the size of the kitchen. He complains about the General wanting jaggery in his sambar. You will love the relationship the cook has with his transistor radio. One of the stars that this film gets is for the cook.
A bigger failure of the film is Fatima Sana Sheikh who plays a sad Indira Gandhi. The makeup is plain awful. Indira Gandhi was known for the sarees she wore as a tribute to the finest craftspeople of India. In this film, the sarees make her look like a left-wing activist rather than the Prime Minister. They should have cast Supriya Vinod (Indu Sarkar, and in NTR’s Biopic), Avantika Akerkar (Thackeray) or even Flora Jacob (The Raid and in Thalaivi) actresses who have played the former PM brilliantly And I don’t even want to tell you what a waste it is to see caricatures of the politicians and yes horrid to see Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in ghastly prosthetics as General Yahya Khan. Ugh!.
The second star goes for the only brilliant moment of the film. The encounter of Sam Manekshaw with a young soldier who gives him the nickname ‘Sam Bahadur’. Something welled up inside of this reviewer and made me feel that this film could have been a series of such awesome moments. Instead, it is like the Wiki page (and yes, all the incidents shown in the film are clearly written on the page). So donate that ticket money to the people who run Wikipedia, and wait for the film to show up on some OTT platform.
Just as the ‘Arre Nandu’ anti-smoking short before the feature film does not make people quit smoking, this film totally fails to make you feel ‘patriotic’ or ‘proud’ of our army.