When one hears about a real story making it’s way onto celluloid, there is perhaps a fear that the authenticity might not come through. With the tragic story of Sarabjit Singh, there is a similar feeling many would be experiencing. ‘Sarbjit’, directed by Omung Kumar, sees many firsts but the most promising and arguably eagerly awaited first is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a completely deglamorised role. With ‘Jazbaa’ (2015) she didn’t quite strike a chord but with ‘Sarbjit’ the hope is that she will. She essays the role of Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister, whose only quest in life after his imprisonment is to get his freedom. With Randeep Hooda playing Sarabjit and Richa Chadha as Sukhpreet, Sarabjit’s wife, it seems this film has much more to offer than just the varied star cast.
The story of Sarabjit Singh is known to many. He was a Indian farmer who accidentally crossed the unmarked Pakistan border and was caught by Pakistani rangers. He was accused of being an Indian spy involved in bombings in the country and put into prison, eventually delivered the death sentence. The sentence kept being postponed by Pakistani authorities until, after being attacked by his fellow in-mates, he died in hospital just six days later from his injuries.
It has to be said that the story of Sarabjit Singh is a tragic and emotionally moving one. Kumar, as director, has sought to put it on to the screens to the audiences and cram in as much detail as possible from the real-life occurrences. He is to be applauded for the way he has put the story across, achieving a well-rounded view of how each member of Singh’s family would be feeling in the length of time he was in jail for. He shows that he knows each of the characters well and it seems he’s really done his research in terms of the intricacies of the story and which parts he wanted to include in the film. It is commendable that the story comes across as sincere to the core but powerful, tragic and heartening at the same time.
It was almost a given that such a film would evoke performances that would enhance the story that the makers want to convey to the audiences. Rai Bachchan gives what can be described as her best performance til date as Dalbir; she manages to tug at the heartstrings with the emotional scenes and you can’t really take your eyes off her portrayal of Dalbir’s passion for the cause. Her scenes with Hooda are some of the best parts of the film overall, albeit a little heartbreaking at times. Hooda himself seems to continue to outdo himself with every film and ‘Sarbjit’ once again puts him up there as one of the most talented, understated actors in Bollywood today. His pairing with Chadha is also an interesting and fresh one. Chadha is near-perfect as Sukhpreet and adds a great support to Rai Bachchan when needed. Their scene in the second half together where Sukhpreet vocally supports Dalbir’s fighting spirit is one of the most beautiful in the entire film. Aside from this, the reunion scene between the family and Sarabjit is also particularly poignant. Darshan Kumaar’s small but pivotal role gets a well-deserved special mention – he’s one actor who seems to fit into any mould. Ankur Bhatia, who plays Rai Bachchan’s love interest, is also worthy of a mention for his performance – he makes a mark even in a short but sweet role in both the first and second halves.
‘Sarbjit’ is a film which almost doesn’t need a soundtrack (even though it has one). The songs which are primarily there to highlight the emotions are decent enough but aren’t really needed in the grand scheme of the overall story. Having said that, it is Sonu Nigam’s vocals in ‘Dard’ which strike a true chord of what the family is going through and perhaps capture the essence of the entire film.
All in all, it has to be said that Kumar has delivered a truly heart-wrenching story without misplaced grandeur and with distinction that perhaps very few would have been able to achieve. He brings out the absolute best of the main cast, as well as the actresses who play Sarabjit Singh’s daughters as adults; at every point showing how much their lives are affected and how much of a fight the family had going for so many years. There is a lot crammed into two hours and at some small points, some of the audience’s attention might be lost, but overall ‘Sarbjit’ is a indeed good watch and a must-see. Rai Bachchan and Hooda are truly gems to watch sharing screen space and the former has shown that she’s definitely back… and glamour has nothing to do with it!
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 4/5
‘Sarbjit’ is due to release on 20th May, produced by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar and Jackky Bhagnani and Vashu Bhagnani.