Akshay Kumar (Sooryavanshi) in a still
  • Release Date: 05/11/2021
  • Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh, Jackie Shroff
  • Director: Rohit Shetty

An outrageous and silly but surprisingly fun capper that is self-aware and surges forward with pace and gusto

— Ambar Chatterjee

Dhruba Saikia [name changed], an IT professional and language aficionado was conned by me (a budding salesman then) into watching Son of Sardaar in 2012. He was repelled so much by the mediocrity of the film that he sat through the duration of its runtime only because he didn’t want to insult my presence in the theater on a Diwali day. He was shocked at the presence of some of the biggest names in Bollywood in the lineup of actors and yet how boring and arduous the film turned out to be. Son of Sardaar scarred him for life and he vowed never to watch another Bollywood film in theaters.

9 years later, Dhruba was cajoled into watching another masala potboiler sidestepping his vow and after a lot of emotional blackmailing by the same me (now a salesman of “some” repute). Post-interval, the unthinkable happened. Dhruba was cheering the heroes of the film and was wide-eyed at some of the most outrageous albeit decently executed action set pieces. The “front bench” humor of the film was making its way to him. No matter how stupid and utterly distasteful it might be to his delicate sense of poise and cinema, he was laughing and hooting. And when Katrina appeared in a moist saree gyrating to a remix of “tip tip barsa pani” (Mohra, 1994), Dhruba could feel the 10-year-old boy — that he was when Mohra released — coiling somewhere deep within with excitement. This film he was literally dragged into was Sooryavanshi. Dhruba’s astonishment at how much he enjoyed this film for reasons that eluded him was to me what summed up Rohit Shetty’s latest capper and made it a film that achieved what it set out to.  

The plot of the film is inspired by numerous real-life events that are still fresh in our memories and hence it is very easy for the Indian audiences to connect to the story. A dreaded terrorist played by Jackie Shroff sends in his son played by Abhimanyu Singh along with 40 others to remain as sleeper cells in India after Pakistan’s defeat in the Kargil war. These men are instrumental in planning and carrying out innumerable attacks and blasts on Indian soil. However, they have one enormous mission to carry out that they believe would bring India down to its knees. The anti-terrorist squad gets a whiff of their plan and they bring in their best officer, Veer Sooryavanshi (Akshay Kumar) to nab not only Abhimanyu Singh but also the other 40 sleeper Cells. What happens next is what Sooryavanshi is all about.

Jackie Shroff as the antagonist in a still

In Sooryavanshi, the situations, as well as the protagonist of the film, push the narrative forward. The characters are always on the clock and the situations are always spiraling out of control. Every time the protagonist finds himself in the lead, he almost immediately realizes that the antagonists have a card or two up their sleeves. The film starts off with a lot of exposition but all of it is complemented with real-life footage and introduction to characters that are interesting and quickly put us in pace with the story at hand. Hence these expositions never get tedious or feel clichéd. It is also a fact that we Indians are used to these kinds of sequences in films and we are not as particular about “show don’t tell” as some of the other countries and audiences.

The action of the film is evenly peppered across the narrative. There are atleast two very well-done chase sequences that gain immensely from the fact that Akshay Kumar does his own stunts. The climactic battle is long and has all the three heroes gunning, chopping, and bludgeoning their way through the horde of bad guys to the audiences’ delight. In addition to the action, some elaborate set pieces are envisioned with the sole purpose of inspiring and giving the heroes a chance to walk in slow-motion towards the audience. Even these sequences work because of the affinity that we have towards the leading men, how well the sequences are executed, and also for the pulsating background score that hammers down on your senses and tells you exactly how to feel about a sequence.     

Akshay Kumar is present in almost every frame of the film. He is someone who is instantly likable in any character and he has played a cop ample number of times to give out the right vibes. He is surrounded by numerous supporting actors who play off of him in a way junior actors play off of seasoned actors. They bring their reverence for the man as an actor to their characters and that holds them in a better position to understand and react to how they would if they were cops and Sooryavanshi was their easygoing and quirky boss who was great at what he did. This immediately elevates the drama and the comedy of the film to a higher level and envelops the audience.

Ajay Devgn (Singham), Akshay Kumar (Sooryavanshi), Katrina Kaif (Ria), and Ranveer Singh (Simba) in a still

The cameos by Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh do not feel like gimmicky. They have specific tasks to accomplish in the film and they do so with pompous style. Hence their entry and their stay are not only welcome with cheers and ear-splitting whistles but they also get their due at the end of the film. The three characters have their own different characteristics and they maintain that faithfully throughout their essays. Katrina Kaif appears in what can be called a prolonged cameo. She is easy on the eyes and seems to be getting better at her dialog delivery and even acting. She does her part well. I liked her performance in the “tip tip barsa pani” remix but Raveena’s performance in the original still holds sway.

Sooryavanshi does lecture a lot on communal harmony and keeps repeating itself through visual representation and forced monologues. After a while this might get irritating for certain audiences. This, I believe, Rohit Shetty does to even out some of the real things that he shows. Things that are not allowed to be depicted in these “woke times” so as not to hurt some community. As an audience, I didn’t have much of an issue with these repeated classes on secularism. The film is riddled with conceptual and logical loopholes that are best not referenced. This is not the kind of film where you look for realism and logic. I was elated that they atleast let the terrorists remain serious and that was good enough for me.

I had low expectations from Sooryavanshi but thankfully it accomplished all that it set out to accomplish. It will entertain you from start to finish. It has an investing story. The characters are envisioned and essayed with conviction and charm. All the loose ends are successfully tied off by the end and the film successfully sets up the next film in the franchise. What more could we ask for from a film of this nature? If you are looking for entertainment and a feel of the seminal Bollywood 1990s masala potboiler then look no further. I am confident that Sooryavanshi will end up being one of the biggest blockbusters of this year.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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