Director: Anurag Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra,
Stars: 2 stars
Kesari, cinematically records the events of the brief war at the fort of Saragarhi which is home to the brave 36 Sikh Regiment. The film tries to capture the Sikh’s bravery, their sense of honour and pride but loses to the false dramatisation of the script. Director Anurag Singh has managed to save face with a good second half which is longer than the first. At the time, in 1897 while the British had control over the country’s lands and military. The Battle of Saragarhi was fought before the Tirah Campaign on 12 September 1897 between Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen, which occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
Ishar Singh, the protagonist aka Akshay Kumar is someone who can never bare injustice happening anywhere, even if it is on the other side of the border. Ishar mindlessly charges in to save an Afghani girl from her own kind when she is threatened to be beheaded. No questions asked! Defying the orders of his British master leads to his transfer to the fort of Saragarhi. Where the actual story is supposed to begin. While you would expect the makers to dive in, a good amount of first half is divulged to make sure the audience understands, who Ishar is how he thinks and what he wants.
There comes in the rest of the cast— from the old women who is on screen for a minute to Parineeti’s character who is on for a few minutes to the entire remaining regiment. They all have only two agendas, one- to make Ishar look good, sensitive, wise and two- to get audience emotional before the end of the movie. Usually, this tactic would work wonders but for Kesari, it just makes the film run dry. With the audience already aware of what is about to happen, it best left to a good script and direction.
Unfortunately, the good part of the film only lasts for about a chunk of the last 30 minutes, when the battle is actually happening. We see slo-mo action sequences which feel unnecessary after the first few and powerful dialogues that can finally make an impact on the audience. Otherwise, the film celebrates a man saving a woman, him igniting a war between two countries and a twisted man who test this own regiment.
There have also been more than a few moments where we see Akshay Kumar trying to force patriotic propaganda on the audience while playing it save with religion. An actual dialogue in the film has one bad guy asking to another (Yes, they don’t even bother to tell the names of these bad guys), “Why are you bringing God into this battle?” To which he replies, “Every war has a weapon you use yours and let me use mine.” Thankfully he dies in towards the end.
The essence of the film is Ishar obsessed with feeling free after he is been called the servant of the British government instead of a proud soldier, and this is why he chooses to die as a free Sikh in spite of the British ordering him to hold fort.
Verdict: The bravery of these men is commendable and this film makes a damn good point about it. If only Kesari had stuck to the known facts this film could have been the next URI of 2019