Starring : Randeep Hooda , Aishwarya Ra Bachchan, Richa Chaddha , Darshan Kumaar
Director : Omung Kumar
Review by : Kriti Agarwal
Rating : 2 out of 5
What's about : August 25, 1990: Dalbir admonishes her younger brother Sarabjit singh for his waywardness and locks him out of the house. As Sarabjit's protests fall on deaf ears, a friend whisks him away for a binge. He has too much drink and when the revelry ends, he takes off in the wrong direction never to return home. He crosses the India-Pak border in an inebriated state, is mistaken for a terrorist and jailed in Pakistan, returning 23 years later in a coffin. He was attacked by fellow inmates at at Kot Lakhpat Jail, and died on 2 May 2013 at Jinnah Hospital , Lahore.
This is the story of true heroism, unfaltering commitment and determination of a sister, Sarabjit's wife & daughters, who sacrificed their whole lives in achieving this goal.
Censor board of Pakistan has banned the film for being"anti-Pakistani"
Based on a newsy real-life story, it takes cavalier liberties with reality. Statistics flashed on screen right before the end credits inform us that there were 403 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails and 278 Pakistanis in Indian jails as on July 1, 2015. Like Sarabjit, they are not mere numbers, they are living breathing human beings, many of whom (though not all) are innocent victims of the long-running political enmity between India and Pakistan.
Location : jail, village, city, streets, and corridors of power in Punjab, Delhi, Indo Pak border, Lahore.
Story : The story is sad. The treatment is bad. It is long and loopy and manipulative.
The scenes are written, not to tell the tragedy, but to evoke emotions and squeeze every tear out of its viewers , topped with ‘hail-the-sister’, ‘mera desh mahan’, ‘message on brotherhood’ moments that are so forced and out of context that it hurts.
Locking Sarabjit in a small box for eight months, limbs contorted, hung upside down and flayed till bloody, unleashing creepy crawlies on him and subjecting him to inhuman treatment till he admits his crime. The bodyguards push Dalbir and hit her on the head when she goes to see a minister. Police officers frisk the family members, spoil their make-up, strip them off their jewellery when they go to see Sarbjit in the jail.
The horror of a human being made to suffer physical and mental torture, and used as a political pawn between the now hardening-now softening stance between India and Pakistan, is wrenching.
And in the second half, Sarbjit writes a five-page long essay on ‘Meri Didi Mahaan’.
There are lectures on borders, brotherhood and bravado. One moment we are chasing the biggest terrorist in the world, in the next moment, we go to a dargah. Because hey, chasing the terrorist can wait, an emotional line or a song on humanity should not. “Chalo tumhe aisi jagah lekar chalta hoon jahaan koi lakeere na ho…” Cut to a dargah and a Sufi kind of song.
They try tracking a terrorist in Canada, who is caught in Chandigarh,followed by burning an effigy of a lawyer (loved the sarcasm) in Pakistan , to a young girl getting married in India, to a song. All of this happens back to back, without much notice or meaning.
And of course there is the superfluous `giddha-shiddha’ :
One noble Pakistani shows up, in the shape of a lawyer ( Darshan), who believes that Sarbjit is innocent .
The rest is taken over by Ms Rai, straining every sinew, delivering loud lectures to both Indians and Pakistanis, and heaven help us, Talibanis !!!
The constant harping on Indo-Pak relations – digressing to more political and subtle anti-Pakistani sentiments – loses the plot. Simple humane moments focusing on the struggles of a family that has lost a member to an unfair system would’ve taken the movie much further.
But it also takes care to humanise ordinary Pakistanis, who are helping Sarbjit, by smuggling letters to him in prison or standing up to represent him in court despite criticism .Film story places Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur rather than Sarabjit at the centre of the plot. It reduces a poignant human drama to outright Bollywood pulp .
Aishwarya Rai [ Dalbir Kaur] : -lavender-lipstick- is a bit too screechy ,doesn’t quite own the struggle of Dalbir. Woefully miscast as the dogged sister of the titular character. She neither looks nor sounds like a true-blue sardarni , with her tinny dialogue delivery and wayward diction .
Randeep Hooda [ Sarabjit Singh Attwal] : an exceptionally gifted actor , powerful performance. his dialogue delivery, body language, the change in his character are enacted so well that you feel his agony. His break down is quite a tearjerker. A combination of his own scary dedication (he lost 18kg for the role), SFX and his makeup artist Renuka Pillai’s efforts .
Richa Chaddha [ Sukhpreet attwal] : A powerful actress. mostly on the margins, but sparkles in a confrontation between Sukhpreet and Dalbir . Unfortunately, the strategy is to not let her upstage the 'bigger' star Aish .
Darshan Kumaar [ Awais Sheikh] : appears towards the end of the film but manages to get all the attention with his Urdu dialect and the on-screen energy, as the zealous Pakistani lawyer Avais Sheikh who takes up Sarbjit’s case
Ankita Srivasava[ daughter Poonam kaur] , Shiwani Saini [ Swapan], Ankur Bhatia [ Mandev] , Charanpreet Singh [ Sanjay] and Ram murti Sharma[ Daar ji] performed well .
Pros : Sarabjit's quaint little cottage in Punjab. Dialogues are very balanced and impactful .
Cons : disjointed screenplay. poor editing . The script is more intent on giving the heroine a platform to holler and hector her way though than on crafting a balanced narrative that tracks the impact of Sarabjit's disappearance . The casting of Aishwarya Rai as Dalbir.
Can you explain to me :
1 --Was Sarabjit really a spy, and mastermind of a bomb attack in Pakistan?
2 --Were there the present kinda buses, or Tata Indigo at the time this quasi period film is placed in Delhi?
3 -- Is Aishwarya saying “nahin” in Punjabi right?
4 -- Does she seem a bit like Sunny Deol from Gadar when she yells, “Hatt”, pointing her fingers at a mob in Pak?
5 -- Should the camera not be focusing a little more on Richa Chaddha who in fact plays Sarabjit’s wife—a “half widow” as it were?
6 -- since the whole film is centred on the sister, shouldn’t we delve a little more on her own private life, or lack thereof ?
7 -- There is so much of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film, it might have been better called Dalbir than Sarbjit.
Some of the best scenes:
1-- a good aerial shot of the Pakistani flag,
2 -- where a man cleverly burns his own effigy,
3 -- a shot where the Singh family patriarch fixes his moustache for the camera
4 -- sister and family meet him in Pakistan jail. meeting scene is well executed, well performed and have a different spark. will leave you teary eyed.
5 -- The mini flashback scenes of Sarabjit with his family are touching. A grieving Aishwarya clinging on to her still-born child. Randeep convinces her to give up the infant’s body.
6 -- Daljit ties a rakhi to Sarabjit in the jail is truly touching.
Music : The gratuitous songs and ear-splitting background score divert the attention of the audience away from the pathos of the situation. "Salamat" and "Meherbaan" are good songs in the movie, that is dark and brutal otherwise.
Bottom line : Sarabjit, a biographical drama based upon a true incident that drenched several eyes, killed many hopes and even soared Indo-Pak relations, turns out to be 'too' powerful to feel the actual pain of a family which lost its son for no real reason. Randeep Hooda is the man to watch out for.