New Delhi: This is the question Arjun Kapoor’s Los Angeles-based character Amreek Singh asks himself in Sardar Ka Grandson when his 90-year-old grandmother, Sardar Rupinder Kaur (Neena Gupta), expresses a desire to visit Pakistan and see the house she built in the 1940s with her husband Gursher Singh (John Abraham).
Gursher was murdered in the post-Partition bloodbath of 1947 that resulted in a mass exodus from both sides of the border. Sardar (which is how Amreek addresses his daadi) managed to escape to Amritsar with her infant and made a new life for herself. She remarried, her family grew and prospered, but the pain never left her.
When she confides in her favourite grandchild and circumstances prevent him from taking her on a journey to Pakistan, he decides to move mountains to bring the house to her. Having just split with his fiancé Radha (Rakul Preet Singh), Amreek feels he understands the emptiness that Sardar has carried with her for 70-plus years after the death of her beloved Gursher. He is determined to do everything his abilities permit to assuage some of that hurt.
The flashbacks to a young Sardar (Aditi Rao Hydari) and Gursher (played by John Abraham, who is also this film’s producer) do have a touch of poignance, but their love and tragedy too are not written to their full potential.
The fact that Amreek works in a logistics company (called ‘Gently Gently’) comes in handy when he thinks of moving the Lahore home to Amritsar. Even more convenient is how Radha appears at the right time to make things happen.
Predictably, hurdles are stacked in the way of Amreek’s mission and the characters include a police officer and a city mayor. The actual uprooting and transportation of the house itself gets less focus than bureaucratic hurdles. Along the way, someone mentions that Amreek is trying to do a Sunny Deol and calls his mission filmy.
Though initially, the film seems to be able to laugh at itself and the clichés in Hindi films, it soon spirals into a series of predictable tropes.
The performances all around are adequate but don’t shine and it perhaps has to do with the material that doesn’t raise the bar. Even the young tea seller in Pakistan is a character that isn’t fleshed out enough.
Kaashvie Nair pens the story with the very knowing risk of a “predictable plot.” The route taken by Kaashvie and the team doesn’t actually have varied ways to end the film.
Sardar Ka Grandson’s “moral of the story” is articulated thus by Amreek addressing the Mayor of Lahore (Kumud Mishra) as the film draws to a close: “Nafrat se zyaada taqat na, pyaar mein hoti hai. Tum chaahe jaise bhi ho, par tumhare mulq ke log na, bahut acchhe hain.” (Love is more powerful than hate. Despite the sort of person that you are, the people of your country are very nice.)
Sardar ka Grandson could have been a heart-warming story of memories and finding closure, but it ends up like a half-cooked aloo paratha without butter.