4.0 / 5
History tells us that on March 1, 1940, Michael O’Dwyer (Shawn Scott), a former lieutenant governor of the Punjab province, shot and killed Sardar Udham Singh (Vicky Kaushal). O’Dwyer 1 General 1 April 1 April 1 General Dyer instructed the revolutionaries to give a lesson that they will not forget. Dyer fired on a peaceful gathering of about 10,000 people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, leaving thousands injured and killed. Udham Singh witnessed the atrocities and vowed to avenge the tragedy. But as the film suggests, it wasn’t just a common murder. Udham could have safely killed O’Dwyer because he had plenty of chances. He decided to do it in a public place at Caxton Hall, while O’Dwyer was giving a speech on how the British presence had benefited the “Indian barbarians”. The assassination was a symbol of protest against British imperialism.
Udham, though a few years older than Bhagat Singh (Amal Parashar), still looks to the Agni brand revolutionary. He joined Bhagat Singh’s Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and is known for collecting guns and ammunition for them in the film. After Bhagat Singh’s death in 1931, he moved abroad, and worked as a sole agent for the Indian freedom fighters, arranging funds and guns from as far away as America, Russia, Spain and Germany. He maintained several passports and nicknames, took up several occupations such as film extras, underwear salesman, welder, stationery merchant and basically avoided the British secret police for several years before taking revenge. He is shown near an English woman named Ilish (Kirsty Everton), who had an affair with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Udham met with IRA staff in London and strongly believed that their struggle and his struggle was the same. All these aspects have been faithfully restructured by director Sujit Sirkar. Not much is known about this historic figure. Vinegar helps us gain insight into the mind of this shadow revolutionary. In one scene, he asks a Scotland Yard officer (Stephen Hogan) when asked about Bhagat Singh, “What did you do when you were 23?” In another parable he says that our scriptures say that the youth of a man lays the foundation of his life. “Mary Jawani ka no matlab bana,” she asks. He gave a drunken speech about freedom and freedom of speech in what Hyde Park thinks is a true revolution that illuminates his worldview – a man fighting for the rights of everyone in this world, demanding equality for every citizen, regardless of religion. And national borders.
Sirkar spent about 5 minutes in the last half of the film to recreate the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This section makes a tough watch, but to see it we must understand why Udham Singh kept the fire of vengeance burning in his heart for 20 years. Udham has been shown that those who are still alive, drink their water, take them to the hospital on a plate, do it repeatedly until he is exhausted. “No, he’s alive,” he asks, and you get violent. This is Sirkar’s most touching cinematic achievement. He does not show any kindness to the audience, which makes them feel helpless, helpless. No words are needed after that. Pictures haunt you and will continue to haunt your dreams for days to come.
Art direction, cinematography, sound design are all world class. It’s as if vinegar somehow got us back on time. Non-linear descriptions also work for the film. The film is about three hours long but never feel annoyed. All the technical subtlety in the world makes no sense if the actors don’t do their work. The film relies on Vicky Daksha’s capable shoulders and he has given his soul to the character of Udham Singh. This is his best performance so far. The character he portrays, casts all his shadows, brings out everything and gives us experience of every aspect of Udham Singh – his revolutionary initiative, his love and respect for Bhagat Singh, the pain caused by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the onel compatibility of his secret search. And all this is expressed through subtle changes, body language. He is not once loud in the film, his eyes and silence allow him to reveal the hidden depth of his character.
We rarely make biopics like this. After giving us Udham Singh, perhaps Sujit Sarkar should give us the next Bhagat Singh. This movie deserves a theatrical release and we hope the producers will think about that in the near future.
Trailer: Sardar Udham