Honestly, the trailer is misleading. Sardar Udham is not an espionage thriller. The treatment is dramatic but underlying. This is very rare for a Hindi movie to carry such cinematic language. Shoojit Sircar, who has made some significant films recently, directed this historical biographical drama. Vicky Kaushal portrays the titular role.
Very little is known about Sardar Udham Singh. So it is very difficult for the writer to build the story around him and make a full length film. The story in the film is basically told in a non-linear manner. As everyone is well aware of what Sardar Udham Singh did, there is no need to create any suspense around it. That’s exactly what the makers have done here. It’s not the story of how Udham Singh killed Michael O’Dwyer, it’s about how the Jallianwala Bagh massacre so affected Udham Singh’s young mind that he endures grief even 20 years after the incident and In the end he takes revenge. Sardar Udham’s deep sorrow and his determination are well described through the cinematic lens of Avik Mukhopadhyay. Avik’s cinematography is the X-factor of the film. With some of the best set designs and costumes, Sardar Udham is one of the best shot period dramas in India. The London sets look very authentic. There are always problems when it comes to representation of foreign actors in Indian films, but here all foreign actors are well cast. Some actors look very close to the historical figures they are playing. But unfortunately the lead Vicky Kaushal is only seen close to Udham Singh in the poster.
To play a historical character is always challenging. On a few occasions the performance of the lead stands out, but overall it is just an average performance. But a movie carrying good cinematic expressions, sometimes an underplaying performance is what you need. One of the most important aspects of the movie is, it’s pacing. The way the pacing is controlled in the movie is really interesting. The scene in Siberia introduces us with the determination of Udham Singh and the Jallianwala scene, which runs for around half an hour, tells us about how that horrific night impacted him even after decades. In reality the impact of this type of horrific event can carry through generations. Shoojit Sircar tries to make a very clear statement about why such events impacted generations.
The Indian part of the movie somehow lags behind. You can feel the discrepancies in the treatment. Some characters are underplayed, especially of Bhagat Singh. Banita Sandhu’s performance is more dramatic. In India, the period looks more modern than 1919. A more realistic approach in the Jallianwala scene could have been better suited for a film trying to explore the horrors of a massacre.
It is a very difficult movie to make, but Shoojit Sircar and his team make it happen. The biggest loss is that it couldn’t see a theatrical release. Good for Prime videos, but this deserves the big screen. Appreciation for the music director Shantunu Moitra, the art director for the foreign locations Dimitry Malich and writer Subhendu Bhattacharya. Shoojit Sircar somehow falls short of his previous works. Having developed such love interest plots and shot them that way, the director’s deliberate attempt to subtle the tone is where the problem lies.
If we put aside the dramatic parts in India, the aging issues of the main character and a glamorous love interest, it is a well made film with a different take on the biographical genre with some stunning visuals. Overall a good movie to explore with some layered and underlying aspects.