Director Anurag Singh’s Kesari, supposedly based on the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi, was nothing more than a doomed attempt at bringing out your inner Indian and, might I say, turned out to be quite a melodramatic let-down!
Rating – 2.75 / 5
Every time we witness our nation’s hero Akshay Kumar drop one of those deeply fervent flag-waving films (of course I’m talking about Baby, Airlift, Rustom), the country’s heart skips a beat as the crowd inevitably come under a patriotic spell. With a genre that’s actually quite hard to go wrong with (given previous hits such as Jodhaa Akbar, Padmaavat, The Ghazi Attack etc.), my only question is – Anurag Singh, how did you manage to mess this up? And mind you, for someone whose so madly in love with all of Khiladi Kumar’s films, this one’s a first!
Set in the late 1900s, when the British rule was at its peak, the film commences with protagonist Halavaldar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) being transferred to the 36th Sikh regiment at Fort Saragarhi for his so-called lack of obedience with one of the British officers. At Saragarhi, Singh becomes the soldier in-charge of 20 unruly, shabby, jobless soldiers, who seem to have no interest in following orders or leading disciplined lives. After having successfully broken the ice of disciple with his teammates, Singh and his 20 soldiers take a bold decision to fight the 10,000+ army of the Pathans, leading to a bloody, disturbing yet one of the bravest battles ever fought!
“Aaj meri pagdi bhi kesari, jo bahega mera lahu bhi kesari, aur mera jawaab bhi kesari!”
One of the major major flaws with Kesari was that the entire first half of this 160-minute film was spent in setting up Ishar Singh’s character in relation to his new team members, which, to be frank, was quite redundant and an utter waste! Being a film that was supposedly based on the Battle of Saragarhi, the intelligent thing would be to use a massive chunk of screen time to build up a solid historic foundation and display the battle in its entirety sans any equivocation. But, to my dismay, Kesari was nothing more than a historically baseless spectacle that offered no background whatsoever and aimlessly dragged around for the heck of it, to an extent where even the scenes involving the war itself in the latter half were immensely slowed down in order to forcefully induce a patriotic emotion (which clearly backfired).
The fighting scenes involving our main man (Akshay Kumar) exclusively, were tolerable and, despite the film’s grave drawbacks, it was breathtaking to watch Akshay remain so committed to his character and hold on to his saffron-coloured pagdi with so much devotion and intensity, right till the last minute. However, I’m still unable to understand what exactly Parineeti Chopra’s role was? But I guess the “Special Thanks” at the end explained it all… Chopra played the role of Ishar Singh’s wife, Jeevani Kaur, who took the liberty of popping up in his imagination every now and then for some random unrelated out-of-context conversations, which was not only absolutely unnecessary but also a distraction from the focal point of the film – the war.
So, to sum up, I guess, a film that aimed to glorify the nature of the 21 against 10,000 war, only ended up giving a mild taste of it and I hate to say it but a lethal combination like Dharma Productions and Akshay Kumar sure did quite a job at drowning all my expectations! But, to all my fellow Bollywood junkies out there, you might as well relieve yourself of that itch and give this one a watch – either for the patriotic spirit or simply to admire the greatness of Akshay Kumar!
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