Take memories of the India-Pakistan partition in 1947 and mix it up with a little Sunny Deol type of heroics – (you know the one where he plucks a hand pump out of the ground effortlessly) and a slight touch of ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ (2015), and the end result (weirdly enough) is Netflix’s latest drama ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ starring Arjun Kapoor, Neena Gupta, Rakul Preet Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari and John Abraham.
The story revolves around an ailing 90-year-old woman from Amritsar and her grandson’s efforts to fulfil her deepest desire: to revisit the home in Lahore that she fled because of the violence of 1947. The woman known as Sardar (Gupta) is unable to make the journey to Pakistan. Since Sardar cannot go to her Lahore home, Amreek (Kapoor) vows to somehow physically transport his grandmother’s old house across the border.
It helps that Amreek used to run a transport and logistics company back home in Los Angeles. But unfortunately for him, he has fought and fallen out with his business partner and fiancee Radha (Singh) – one of the many contrivances that help in stretching a one-note idea into a 140-minute feature. The movie doubles up as the coming-of-age story of Amreek, who is treated by everybody as an overgrown adolescent who is unable to keep his promises.
Amreek’s diplomatic mission across the border includes getting arrested almost immediately after entering Pakistan, consuming bootlegged alcohol, and bonding with locals over song-and-dance sequences. He does all this with the only face expression he is capable of – resting Arjun face.
However, in fairness to Kapoor, the script isn’t something to write home about either. ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ is the sort of movie in which virtually every character functions as a stereotype. So you have people named Pinky, Ponty, and Lovely, saying things like ‘fitte mooh’ and calling each other ‘khota’. These people begin their day with a screaming match over some paranthas, and end it, invariably, with a post-dinner drink of whiskey.
Meanwhile, in parallel to the main story, a dramatically different John Abraham movie plays out in flashback. The action star appears as Amreek’s grandfather, who died in a violent clash during the Partition. Aditi Rao Hydari, appearing in her third Netflix release in about as many months, plays the younger version of Gupta’s character. Neither of them are comfortable with the clunky dialogue, which fluctuates between Punjabi and Hindi with little regard for authenticity. While Aditi pronounces the word for house as ‘kaar’, John, in the same scene, uses the Hindi ‘ghar’.
‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ seems to have its heart in the right place, but it all appears to be a bit insincere. As Amreek notes in yet another instance of the film spoon-feeding the audience, the people on either side of the border have no ill-will towards each other; it’s the bureaucrats in charge who are causing chaos. But that isn’t entirely true, is it? Especially coming from an industry that has made millions by demonising the other side.
Many Punjabi families would relate to the core conflict that ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ is attempting to profit from. It’s a pity, then, that decades of pain have been reduced to this ridiculous mess of a movie that includes a scene in which Kapoor pretends he’s Miley Cyrus.
Highly disappointed at what could have been an incredible story.