Sardar Udham movie review: Udham Singh by Vicky Kaushal
It’s not easy to make a biopic or a movie based on real events. Well, Shoojit Sircar refuses to call Sardar Udham a biopic and it’s obvious why. Sardar Udham’s name might not evoke immediate memory, unlike a Bhagat Singh. And there is very little information about his life and the events that led to his martyrdom. Udham was not a dominant name in the revolutionary struggle that led to independence, but he was responsible for the one event that changed the course of history as we know it. Sardar Udham assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, who was lieutenant governor of the Punjab during the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.
Sardar Udham has Vicky Kaushal to star and take on one of the most complex and difficult roles of his career. The film oscillates between the present and the past, giving us flashbacks to what led Udham on the path to revenge. The Jallianwala Bagh incident serves as a catalyst in Udham’s trip to England where he acts on his instincts and shoots O’Dwyer point blank. But Shoojit’s film is not about this isolated incident. In fact, the first hour or so of the film introduces us to Udham, his friends, the first influences in his life. There’s also a cameo by Amol Parashar who plays Bhagat Singh, perhaps the only other name besides O’Dwyer that’s etched in our pages of history.
Udham’s journey to pre-independence days, leading to his imprisonment, hearing and then death by hanging, is told from one point of view – his mind. The first hour of the film opens the floodgates for what it must have been to be so angry, frustrated and obsessed with rage to follow your instincts, cross the sea, use all possible aids to seek ultimate revenge.
Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography has a lasting impression as it captures everything from claustrophobic cells to the snowy landscapes of the former USSR. Camera work is one of Sardar Udham’s strongest assets. Plus, technically, this is perhaps Shoojit’s most ambitious film and that is reflected in every department, whether it’s the background music, set design, or costumes. Much attention is paid to detail in creating the era, the Shoojit team have made an effort to understand body language, gait, character tone as well, and have also launched some incredible talents playing members. important players in the British force – namely Shaun Scott who plays Michael O’Dwyer and Stephen Hogan as Detective Inspector John Swain. None of the supporting actors feel like extras in a movie, and everyone has a purpose and a reason for being in the movie.
Watch the Sardar Udham trailer here:
However, even though the film has a technical finesse, it has several hiccups in the way it constructs its narrative. Not wanting to be chauvinistic or resort to chest pounding, Shoojit downplays his main character to such an extent that his efforts are sometimes underwhelming. He may not be a Bhagat Singh giving fiery speeches, but there is something wrong with Udham, especially in the first half when we are introduced to him. The pace and lengthy scenes (there’s one with Vicky walking endlessly through miles of ice fields) do very little to hold your attention.
The large, chilling scene of the massacre is on sale to the very end as we draw closer to Udham’s denouement. Vicky looks like the play and there is immense mental work, a deep dive into the state of mind of this character that seems to have helped him in some really difficult scenes. But, ultimately, the film wears you out with its lack of rhythm and lengthy scenes that sometimes seem to get nowhere.
Sardar Udham’s run time does very little to keep you captivated. Especially for OTT format, pacing and execution time are factors that play a very big role in your overall experience.
Sardar Udham deserves a watch for Vicky’s efforts and Shoojit’s vision in creating a canvas that tells the story of one of India’s most underrated revolutionary heroes.
READ ALSO | India Today Conclave 2021: Vicky Kaushal says filming for Sardar Udham’s Jallianwala Bagh scene was numbing