By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Sarbjit”, Director: Omung Kumar; Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadda, Darshan Kumaar, Ankita Shirvastav; Rating: *** 1/2 (3 and a half stars)
“Sarbjit” is a biopic of Sarabjit Singh Aitwal, a farmer from Punjab’s Bhikhiwind, arrested in Pakistan for crossing the border on August 28, 1990. But in reality, it is the 23-year-old journey of his sister, Dalbir Kaur, depicting her trials and tribulations in the course of her endeavor to bring back, from Pakistan, her brother, who is convicted for a series of bomb blasts and charges of terrorism.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Dalbir Kaur puts her heart and soul into her character. She delivers a fairly robust performance and evokes sympathy, not merely on the strength of her performance, but because of the powerful character she depicts. Unfortunately, even after modulating her voice and emulating the mannerisms of a Punjabi, by no stretch of imagination, can she pass of as a “Sikhni” one is made to believe she is.
Randeep Hooda as Sarbjit steals the show. His transition, physically and mentally from a happy-go-lucky man to an anguished imprisoned soul, is palpable.
Richa Chadda, in a fairly restrained manner, manages to make her presence felt as Sarbjit’s wife Sukhpreet, whom he fondly called “Sukhia. So does Darshan Kumaar as Owais Sheikh, Sarbjit’s lawyer in Pakistan. The rest of the cast too is natural and convincing.
Director Omang Kumar who had earlier delivered “Mary Kom”, has handled the film fairly adroitly. Scripted in a non-linear fashion, the film starts off on an uneven note and gradually as the narration progresses, it settles on an even keel to unravel the compelling drama.
By avoiding the controversies that surround Dalbir Kaur and the existence of her other siblings, scriptwriters Utkarshini Vashishtha and Rajesh Beri’s screenplay skilfully manoeuvres the narration, to stir a sense of patriotism among the audience.
The film is emotionally draining. It brings tears to your eyes. The dialogues are everyday speech, but there are instances when the lines are dramatic and uplift the scenes. This is obvious in the scene where Sarbjit speaks to his lawyer Owais in the prison.
Some of the scenes in the film, seem inspired by classics. This is particularly evident when Sarabjit breaks down emotionally and cries, “Save me sister, save me.” This particular shot reminds you of a scene in Ritwik Gathak’s “Meghe Dake Tara”, where the heroine pleads to her brother to save her. Here the scene may not be as dramatic as in Ghatak’s film but is eventually effective.
With excellent production values, the film is well-mounted. The cinematography by Kiran Deohans is steady and remarkable. With brilliant lighting, his frames are atmospheric. With his wide-angle lenses and tight close-ups, he brilliantly captures the claustrophobic space and the fine nuances of Randeep’s haunting performance.
The sets are realistic and transition of the colour palette, is evident in the costumes of the ladies, which from bright colourful clothes gradually turn into muted hues.
The songs mesh seamlessly into the narration and the background score effectively heightens the viewing experience.
The film is evenly paced with a few lengthy and unwarranted scenes but overall, Sarbjit Aitwal’s story is worth a watch, as it touches the right emotional chord.