Shershaah Movie Review: Sidharth Malhotra shoulders a surprisingly no-frills biopic
By giving us glimpses of what we know about the soldier, and alternating it with newer perspectives of the man beneath the uniform, Shershaah definitely keeps us invested
When Lieutenant Vikram Batra gets his first posting in Kashmir and reaches the base, he greets his seniors and juniors with a salute and a smile. That smile never leaves his lips when he speaks to local Kashmiris, with whom he forms a bond not often seen in our films depicting the volatile relationship between the State and the Army. The same smile is plastered on his face when he talks about returning “after hosting the tricolour” or “wrapped up in a tricolour” as he leaves home for the Kargil war front. It is this nature of Vikram Batra that Shershaah decides to train its focus on. Of course, we see his courageous exploits during the war that are now the stuff of legend. Of course, we see his daredevil attitude as he brazenly puts his life at risk to eliminate threats. But it is the emotional moments that ring louder. We know of Vikram Batra, the valourous soldier, through newspapers, interviews, and film adaptations like LOC: Kargil. Now, through Shershaah, we know Vikram Batra, the child, the lover, the friend, and the ever-giving soul.
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani, Shiv Pandit, Sahil Vaid
Director: Vishnu Varadhan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
The story begins with the end. Vikram is on the anvil of sacrificing his life for the country in the process of recapturing Point 4875. But before the inevitable happens, we are taken a decade or so back to be introduced to a cricket-playing kid from Palampur. A fiercely territorial kid, who grows up watching Chetan Anand’s celebrated TV series, Param Vir Chakra, and wants to become a fauji. These portions, which are a bit too expository, serve as reasoning for why Vikram never flinches putting himself first in the line of danger. This is followed by an insight into his acclimatisation in Kashmir and from there a small detour back to his love story with Dimple (an impressive Kiara Advani). The writer, Sandeep Shrivastava, employs a decent strategy in retelling a story repeated many times on our screen. By giving us glimpses of what we know about the soldier, and alternating it with newer perspectives of the man beneath the uniform, Shershaah definitely keeps us invested.
In Shershaah, the filmmakers have given equal, if not more, attention to both the war and Vikram’s life events. The latter takes precedence and we are left with a rather surface-level exploration of the war. Not that it is a bad choice considering the overdose of chest-thumping jingoism we have now come to connect with this genre. Compared to a bunch of other recent films, Shershaah seems far mellowed down when dealing with the war. So much so that the final hurrah feels more like a dedication to Vikram rather than winning a war. But that’s what happens when you have a character like Captain Vikram Batra at the centre of things.
Shershaah is almost a deification of Vikram, and Sidharth plays the role with utmost sincerity. One drawback of this incessant spotlight around Vikram is the supporting characters not really being given the space to shine. Apart from Dimple, most of the others feel underserved in Shershaah. Especially Vikram's twin brother, Vishal, whose character arc felt so all over the place. While I understand what they were going for, that whole arc never really made sense. Casting competent actors for almost every role in the film helps establish the characters in just a scene or two even if they are dealt a not-so-good hand in the overall scheme of things.
Full points to the technical team and Vishnu for executing the combat sequences with finesse. The stunt choreography by Stefan Richter and Sunil Rodrigues and cinematography by Kamaljeet Negi injected freshness into the film. Another high point of Shershaah is the music — both score (John Stewart Eduri) and songs (Tanishk Bagchi, Jasleen Royal, B Praak, Jaani, Javed-Mohsin and Vikram Montrose) — which binds the multiple emotions surging through the film.
When the curtains are brought down on Shershaah with the song, Kabhi Tumhe, I welled up. Did the tears stream because of the stirring lyrics by Rashmi Virag or the voice of Darshan Raval, or the visuals of Vikram’s family and friends breaking down at Vikram’s death, or the usually stoic soldiers letting their guards down to shed more than just a tear or two for their fallen comrade? At that moment, Shershaah came together as a wholesome film on a much-celebrated soldier.
When one tries to make a grounded film on an exuberant soldier, there are bound to be a few missteps, and Shershaah is guilty of it too. But, like the climactic sequence, when things fall into place, Shershaah soars high enough to do justice to the life of a person who really was the lion among lions