To compress a war hero such as Vikram Batra in 2 hours 15 minutes (Code name: Shershaah) surely could not have been an easy task. Past video clips and interviews from his kin reveal that he was nothing short of a Hindi movie hero, whose presence, valour, and charm are larger than life. Thus, a film of Captain Batra was long due, both literally and metaphorically.
Shershaah, released on Amazon Prime video on August 12, traces the journey of late Captain Vikram Batra, who lost his life at the early age of 24, fighting in the Kargil war. The biographical war film, directed by Vishnuvardhan and produced by Dharma Production, stars Siddharth Malhotra as Capt Batra and Kiara Advani as Dimple Cheema, Vikram's girlfriend.
The first half of the film serves as an attempt to establish Vikram's personality from childhood to his appointment at 13 JAK RIF and a build-up to the Kargil war. Vikram is unafraid of life-threatening risks in the course of his duty. One does get a glimpse of actual Vikram, young and passionate in Siddharth Malhotra's earnest performance, his boyish charm, and personality help. The ensemble cast including Shiv Pandit as captain Sanjeev Jamwal, and Raj Arjun as subedar Raghunath deliver a convincing performance.
Moreover, a refreshing trend is emerging in new age war films made in Bollywood, such as Raazi, Shershaah and Gunjan Saxena, where nationalism is more restrained, that does away with loud chants of Pakistan bashing. Forces and serving in the army are seen as devotion and not hyper-nationalistic. While leaving for recapturing 4875, Captain Vikram tells his battalion, “Chilla chilla ke deshbhakti ki batein nahi karni mujhe aap logon se, deshbhakt ho, isliye yaha ho.”
The sound design by designer Sohel Sanwari gives a dramatic effect, yet never becomes too loud. The movie, shot on location with many handheld shots to convey the tension, gives a raw feeling. The cinematography and sound, right from the first scene of Kargil made me smile thinking how cinematic it may have been to watch this in the cinema hall.
The movie that runs 2 hours, 15 minutes is a dramatic retelling of true events, designed for Bollywood. To be honest, some of the cliches worked while some felt extremely predictable. For example, when we see a soldier show Vikram a picture of his 6-month-old daughter declaring he would soon hold her, the audience knows he would die. What works is a bullet struck Vikram pushing himself to see the Indian men raise the tricolour.
In some parts, the writing of the film lacks a deep perspective. Despite the sweet chemistry between Siddharth and Kiara, I wanted more layers to Dimple Cheema, who never got married again after Vikram's death. The nonlinear narrative structure beginning with a Ted talk being delivered by Vikram's identical twin Vishal detaches the audience for some time. Some of the scenes of Dimple's parents refusing to marry them seem extended.
Nevertheless, some of the dialogues stay with you like when Vikram's friend asks him whether he has to leave early because of orders from above, he replies, “Bulawa andar se aaya hai,” or the iconic lines, “Main tiranga lehra ke aaunga, ya to usme lipat kar aaunga,” which was said by Vikram to an acquaintance in 1999.
Having said everything, to realise at the end, that these are the portrayals of real soldiers of the 13th JAK RIF who fought in the Kargil war at a height of 17,000 feet and real footage of Captain Vikram Batra, smiling and talking about his recent victory is enough to appreciate Shershaah.
This story is a replug on Kargil Diwas.