Swatantra Veer Savarkar review: Randeep Hooda is brilliant in unending biographical drama, but struggles with direction | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Swatantra Veer Savarkar review: Randeep Hooda is brilliant in unending biographical drama, but struggles with direction

Mar 22, 2024 03:03 PM IST

Swatantra Veer Savarkar movie review: The biopic on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar features Randeep Hooda in the titular role. He is also the director of the film.

Swatantra Veer Savarkar movie review: Narrating chapters from the life of a polarising historic figure is not an easy feat. Yet Randeep Hooda's Swatantra Veer Savarkar — a biopic on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar — takes up the challenge, tries to dissect and detail the key events from his life, and serves us a three-hour long biographical film that works in parts and struggles to hook your attention for the rest. Also read | Swatantra Veer Savarkar, Madgaon Express, Arthur The King: New theatrical releases this week

Swatantra Veer Savarkar movie review: Randeep Hooda plays the lead on it and has also directed the film.
Swatantra Veer Savarkar movie review: Randeep Hooda plays the lead on it and has also directed the film.

Spanning over a decade including both pre and post independence era starting from 1857 to 1966, the film unapologetically narrates the story solely from the point of view of its much controversial protagonist. And it doesn't battle an eyelid while doing so, especially when mounting him as a worshipped figure with ideals that many might not have agreed with initially, but would still eventually come to terms with. As a result, Swatantra Veer Savarkar ends up being a one-sided narrative that's not bothered about presenting a balanced outlook about the contributions made towards India's struggle for freedom.

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Premise of the film

A politician, activist and a writer, Savarkar, who propagated Hindutva and the ideology of Akhand Bharat (undivided India), believed in armed revolution to get rid of the British rule as opposed to Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence beliefs and ideologies. However, the film doesn't endorse or advocate the idea of violence, which was a relief.

It sheds light on the contribution and sacrifices of the armed revolutionaries that are often looked down upon as only non-violence is assumed to have contributed to India's freedom. Using bold newspaper headlines to highlight the rise and fall of Savarkar, the motive of the film is clear — familiarise us with his early life, high points during his time in England when he joined hands with India House and Free India Society, his arrest by the British Police, time spent in the prison and his countless mercy petitions to British authorities as a political prisoner.

Randeep Hooda plays Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in Swatantra Veer Savarkar.
Randeep Hooda plays Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in Swatantra Veer Savarkar.

Savarkar's life is so intriguing

Some called him a patriot, some referred to him a bomb ‘golavala’ who incited violence. He was accused and acquitted of multiple conspiracy theories. What makes Savarkar's life so intriguing is his sacrifices and contribution he made to India's freedom struggle and the film doesn't hesitate in slowly turning pages from his life. The first half offers a great build up showing us a young Savarkar as a child devoted to his elder brother (Amit Sial) and as a grown up, extremely loyal to his wife Yamunabai (Ankita Lokhande) and as a charming and confident law student in England. Sadly, the second half nosedives both in terms of storyline and Hooda's direction. Somewhere, he loses track and goes all the place unable to decide how to put the pieces back together.

Randeep Hooda stands out in the film

Despite the good and the bad, what undeniably stands out throughout the film is Randeep Hooda in the titular role, also credited as the director, co-writer, co-producer of the film. His unbelievable physical transformation (losing 30kgs) with his ribs showing and rotten teeth, remains a sight that's unmissable and difficult to watch at the same time.

There are umpteen disturbing visuals of him getting mercilessly beaten up during his imprisonment in the notorious cellular jail in Andaman and Nicobar islands, and then solitary confinement of Kaalapani, and each time, they leave you with a lump in your throat. From portraying a heroic leader to a helpless prisoner, he impresses in both. The way Hooda has gotten into the skin of Savarkar from his body language, dialogue delivery and even to the voice over he does, it is just outstanding and proves his acting prowess, yet again.

Randeep Hooda in a still from Swatantra Veer Savarkar.
Randeep Hooda in a still from Swatantra Veer Savarkar.

Scenes are handled with maturity and dignity

While many anticipated the film to showcase a clash between Gandhi and Savarkar's ideologies, thankfully, that's not the entirely the case. In fact, the scenes between Savarkar (Randeep Hooda) and Gandhi (Rajesh Khera) are handled with maturity and dignity. Though one scene where Savarkar says, 'Gandhi itna bada kab se ho gaya' might elicit laughter, it has an evidently sarcastic undertone. Swatantra Veer Savarkar might claim it's to not paint its leader as flawless yet you notice several instances where the narrative is aimed at correcting his image. There are subtle yet impactful references when Hooda as Savarkar says he doesn't dislike Gandhi, he dislike the idea of non-violence or when he says he doesn't hate the British, he hate slavery, injustice and oppression.

Final thoughts

The biggest flaw the film suffers from is its length and the editing. At two hours 58 minutes, it meanders a lot more than you'd expect. While Hooda the actor shines, as a director, he had so much to tell that even with this runtime, he struggles to hold on to your attention.

With so much material at hand and such in-depth research and understanding of the subject, I wouldn't mind if Savarkar's life was documented in a long format episodic series than this unending film, which loses direction and our subsequent interest in it after a point. Nevertheless, Randeep Hooda's impeccable act and conviction while portraying this role somewhat salvages it.

Film: Swatantra Veer Savarkar

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Ankita Lokhande, Amit Sial, Rajesh Khera

Director: Randeep Hooda

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