Sarbjit review: Randeep Hooda impresses, but the film does not

Hindustan Times | BySweta Kaushal, New Delhi
May 21, 2016 02:19 PM IST

Aishwarya’s Sarbjit is extremely fictionalised, drum-beating, melodramatic saga that suffers from an overtly-worked-up lead actor. Director Oomung Kumar fails at painting the picture of the struggles and evoke the pathos for his lead character.

Director: Oomung Kumar
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Darshan Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Richa Chaddha
Rating: 1.5/5

Randeep Hooda plays an Indian convict languishing in a Pakistani jail in Sarbjit.
Randeep Hooda plays an Indian convict languishing in a Pakistani jail in Sarbjit.

Based on the life of Sarabjit Singh, a farmer who was wrongfully convicted in Pakistan and died after a fatal assault inside jail, the movie Sarbjit focuses on his sister Dalbir Kaur’s fight against the system to prove his innocence.

However, given the very real context of the plot, the movie is an almost fictitious, drum-beating melodramatic saga that suffers from an overly-worked-up lead actor.

Applause is due for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who plays the struggling Dalbir. But, in the same breath, the 42-year-old actor doesn’t manage to bring alive the character. Her lip-twisting, chest-thumping and shouting does not help either. Instead, the melodrama alienates us from an otherwise evocative character.

A poster of Sarbjit shows Aishwarya as Dalbir.
A poster of Sarbjit shows Aishwarya as Dalbir.

The constant harping on Indo-Pak relations – mostly about the sympathy people should show for innocent people, but at times digressing to more political and subtle anti-Pakistani sentiments – loses the plot. Simple humane moments focusing on the struggles of a family that has lost a member to an unfair system would’ve taken the movie much further.

It’s a movie, so melodrama and fiction is all right, but it does take some doing if the audience is expected to identify with characters using phrases like ‘Khauf ki badboo’ or burning their own effigies. Or accept the Pakistani advocate who faces attack for supporting Sarbjit (played by Randeep Hooda) and decides to join the violent crowd protesting against him! Because, apparently nobody knows what he looks like.

Randeep as Sarabjit evokes pity and sympathy. He is sweet as the brother and brings a smile on our face when he is with his family. The movie would have been much better, had director Oomung Kumar given Randeep a little more space. The few sequences where we do see him make us teary-eyed, but the movie quickly moves on.

Read: I saw my brother in Randeep, says Dalbir

Randeep as Sarbjit inside the jail in Pakistan.
Randeep as Sarbjit inside the jail in Pakistan.

One of the rare engaging scenes is where Sarbjit’s family goes to meet him in jail. The frisking of the women in his family is disturbing and also offers a moment where Aishwarya looks authentic in the movie.

Richa Chaddha, yet another talented actor wasted in this star-driven plot, leaves her mark as the silent wife who painfully waits for her husband.

Richa Chaddha plays Randeep’s wife in Sarbjit.
Richa Chaddha plays Randeep’s wife in Sarbjit.

Despite the heavy, tragic air of the film, there are a few breathers – the mini flashback scenes of Sarabjit with his family are touching. In one of the initial sequences, we also see a grieving Aishwarya clinging on to her still-born child. Randeep convinces her to give up the infant’s body. Delicately done, this is one of the rare winning subtle moments.

Watch Sarbjit trailer

It’s a tough movie to get right, and Oomung should be lauded for choosing the story and for picking a star to get the story out to wider audience (like he did with Mary Kom). But, Oomung fails to deliver a moving, poignant film and instead leaves us with a load of melodrama.

Read: Sarbjit is not about Pakistan-bashing, says Randeep

Follow the author @swetakaushal


    Sweta Kaushal has 13 years of experience covering Bollywood and regional movies, TV shows, national current affairs and social issues.

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