Sarfira Movie Review: Akshay Kumar, airplanes and another unimaginative saviour-drama

Sarfira Movie Review: Akshay Kumar, airplanes and another unimaginative saviour-drama

An almost shot-by-shot remake of Sudha Kongara’s 2020 multiple National-award winner Soorarai Pottru, the film feels force-fitted and inorganic
Sarfira(2.5 / 5)

As a 90s kid, whenever I see an airplane in a Hindi film, I expect Akshay Kumar to be in it or over it. I am not kidding, in Khiladi 420 (2000) Akshay actually stands atop a mid-air biplane and jumps off to the basket of a hot-air balloon to save Mahima Chaudhry, who is struggling with a villainous Mukesh Rishi (The early 2000s were something). Akshay’s affinity for the aerial has surfaced over the years (Airlift, 2015; Bell Bottom, 2020). In fact, his cameo appearance in An Action Hero (2022) is also on-board a flight (in my memory Ajay Devgn’s Runway 34 continues to be an Akshay Kumar vehicle). A film about an ex-Airforce officer trying to float a low-cost airline has Akshay’s name written all over it. It also brings another theme the actor always gravitates towards, the social-saviour drama. Although its nostalgic to see Akshay, aviation and maybe even social drama, all-together on screen, Sarfira is an unoriginal, woefully predictable experience. An almost shot-by-shot remake of Sudha Kongara’s 2020 multiple National-award winner Soorarai Pottru, the film feels force-fitted and inorganic. Its highs feel borrowed and it hasn’t been able to shed the lows of the original. Another assembly-line product from the house of Akshay.

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Radhikka Madan, Paresh Rawal, Seema Biswas

Directed by: Sudha Kongara

For the residents of his village, short-tempered, raggedy Veer Mhatre (Akshay) is a messiah and a visionary. When the film begins, the feisty and independent Rani (Radhikka Madan) has come to see him as a marriage-prospect. She eyes him as he dances-off dishevelled during a funeral procession. Later, under the tarpaulin ceiling of his kuccha house, he bluntly declares his bankruptcy to her family. “You have nothing?” she taunts. “Only a business plan,” he says. “India’s first low-cost airline.” She smiles. It’s love at first flight (idea).

But it isn’t going to be a smooth ride. We witness Veer’s desolation as he is turned away from banks and government offices. How he has to put down his ego and depend on his wife for finances. The equal companionship between Rani and Veer is a sweet touch. Generally, male-centric ambition-dramas have female leads reduced to being allies. Radhikka’s Rani, however, steers clear. She huffs and walks away in a scene when Veer asks her for Rs 15,000 in order to register the company. Apologetically, he goes behind her. She turns and says, “Are you ashamed of taking money from your wife?” It’s a mature take on man-woman relationships and how the roles of provider and nurturer should be fluid. Radhikka’s assured performance also lifts the character. She had big shoes to fill as Aparna Balamurali did a stellar job as Bommi in the Tamil original. Radhikka passes with flying colours.

Back on the work front, Veer takes his proposal to the classist and casteist aviation tycoon Paresh Goswami (Paresh Rawal). He sanitises his hands after shaking Veer’s. The meeting goes sour. Never meet your heroes, I guess. The film now becomes a David vs Goliath tale as Goswami tries to sabotage Veer’s operation at every step. It’s amusing to see longtime comedy collaborators Akshay and Paresh take a go at each other, but it is just that, inventive casting. Although Paresh’s character and performance is a carbon copy of the Tamil original, he felt more vile and towering in Soorarai Pottru. Akshay’s Veer also seemed less grimy and rooted than Suriya’s Nedumaaran. The actor is especially wobbly in the sentimental scenes and is unable to sell the emotional core of the film.

Sarfira tries to be a rousing tale of a man who fought against all odds. It wishes to stir its viewers with hope but templated telling nosedives it. The beats are predictable and if you have seen Soorarai Pottru it becomes an exercise of “Spot the difference in the images”. Sadly, there are none.

In 2020, Soorarai Pottru landed on OTT owing to the pandemic. The film won five National awards, including Best Feature and Best Screenplay, however, a theatrical presentation remained elusive. Sarfira seems to be concocted just to satisfy that itch for the big-screen release. A routine exercise to tap into a wider audience. In the film, Veer rebuffs a buyout offer from a certain Walia, an aviation honcho with a penchant for the good times. “We won’t do a deal with those kinds of people,” he says. A matter of principle. The carrier Air Deccan, on whose rise the film is based, merged with Kingfisher Airlines in 2007. It’s all business, I guess.

Cinema Express