Sarbjit is a weepy film! Sarbjit is loud! Sarbjit is labored and Sarbjit is over the top at many junctures. Let’s face it, it’s a film about a person who had a life and willfully dozed off into the the-then open borders between our countries and spent the rest of his life in a prison cell and was later strategically murdered. It is the story of a sister who left her husband just to be with her brother when he was sick. It is the story of a wife who waited all her life for her husband to return. He didn’t. It is also the story of a man who was completely innocent and yet died in prison under in human conditions. Hence I ask myself, why I am reading these reviews about this film being preachy and melodramatic and over the top?
Sarbjit, the film works just as well as its principal cast. The primary reason for that is a tight screenplay which has enough speed and shock value to keep one and all interested. Yes they could have cut short a few songs but somehow I felt that the songs helped even though they were a stickler for me. The screenplay is lucid and detailed. It brings in news strips every now and then to remind us of the timeline and also the events that actually shaped the future of Sarbjit in Pakistan. There were times of hope for him and his family when it seemed that he would be released but with worsening ties between the two nations that became an impossibility. This is well depicted in the film.
The cast members totally nailed their acts. Don’t pay any heed to the negative reviews to Ashwariya Rai Bachchan’s performance. She did a great job here. Even though her makeup and aging through the timeline is somewhat muddled, but her powerful act will appeal to you. She is loud and jittered and cries a lot but that’s something which is expected in a film like this. The emotions have to be upped a bit to make the necessary impact. Randeep Hooda is brilliant. He is breathtakingly real. The manner in which he speaks and acts is bound to touch your heart. It is easily one of his best acts. This is his story and even though he has a shortish role as compared to Ashwariya, there is no complain as he is confined to a prison cell with his sister doing all the fighting. That’s how it was supposed to be. Richa Chadda is great as his wife. She is a natural.
Technically speaking the film has the trademark Omung Kumar style from Mary Kom. There are extensive usage of reds. Rugged and saturated visuals with interesting lighting can be seen. For those who have paid attention to the posters, they can easily match it with the posters of Mary Kom feel wise. The editing and cinematography complements the look and feel of the story. There are changes made here and there to stay clear of claims but the way the characters and the situations are designed, they can be easily mapped to the real people and situations. That’s another thing which helps the cause of the film.
On the flip side there are a few points. The believability factor goes for a toss a few times. In a film like this that’s an unpardonable mistake but it does happen. The film gets into the Bollywood mode of conducive coincidences a few times and that really brings it down. The dramatics get out of hand a few times but that’s something I am willing to live with. Ashwariya’s Punjabi changes gear from time to time. This is the biggest stickler to the believability of her character. This also makes her annoying a few times. There is one scene in which she is rifle-butted in the head. A man lifts her up and interestingly doesn’t even ask if she is OK. As her head reddens, they have a normal discussion without a single word about her injury. I couldn’t help but question the director’s eye in this scene which he let be a part of the final cut without any changes. Why couldn’t he see this gaping error? There are a few more hiccups here and there.
Having said that, Sarbjit is still a decent watch. It is not nearly as bad as the critics want you to believe. It is in many ways an important film. It’s no “The Great Escape” but an almost opposite of it. There is hope but it is taken away faster than it is given. The fact that we know the final outcome only makes the journey that much more dreary. But that’s no reason for you to not embark on this voyage back and forth in time. Watch Sarbjit for the performances and the story that it has to tell.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)