Amazon Prime Video’s film ‘Shershaah’ on Kargil War hero, Captain Vikram Batra (played by Sidharth Malhotra), has finally hit the platform and succeeds in showcasing an honest iteration of his devotion and sacrifice for the nation.
The entire plot is narrated by Vishal Batra (also played by Sidharth Malhotra), who is giving a TED Talk to a live audience. He kicks off the story in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, where Vikram and Vishal spend time watching the neighbours’ television and get hooked onto the Doordarshan series, Param Vir Chakra — a show depicting lives of actual gallantry award winners.
The series ignites a patriotic fire inside Vikram who grows up to get commissioned into the 13th battalion, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (13 JAK RIF), and heads off for his first posting in Sopore, J&K in 1998. Thus begins his life as an officer.
As he carries out lethal operations within the Kashmir valley alongside his comrades, flashbacks depict his time in Chandigarh where he went to college before joining the force. There he meets Dimple Cheema (Kiara Advani) and the two eventually start dating.
When Dimple’s father rejects the prospect of them getting married due to cast differences, he considers joining the merchant navy to secure his financial future and use that to convince him, however, his dream of becoming a soldier puts a halt to this plan. Back in Sopore, he receives letters from Dimple as she waits for him to return on leave and get married.
After a dangerous operation which Vikram leads and completes successfully, he heads back for leave as the clouds of the Kargil War start accumulating. He spends some time with his family in Palampur and with Dimple but has to return owing to these tense circumstances.
Dimple urges him to come back for a longer period of time so that they can finally go through with their wedding plans. Back in Sopore, the unit is met with dire news of Pakistan encroaching upon Indian posts and the gruesome death of Captain Saurabh Kalia.
As Operation Vijay gets underway in May 1999, 13 JAK RIF is initially touted to be a reserve force but soon gets to see action after the situation gets worse. Vikram and his colleague, Captain Sanjeev Jamwal (Shiv Panditt), are assigned to capture Point 5140 by leading the Delta and Bravo companies respectively. This is when Vikram gets assigned the codename, Shershaah, by his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Yogesh Kumar Joshi (Shataf Figar).
The teams manage to recover the peak without any causalities and are congratulated for their effort. The next, and probably the most vital feature in the entire war, is Point 4875. As Vikram and his men head out to repeat their success, a more lethal terrain and enemy setting awaits them.
Sidharth Malhotra does justice to the memory of Capt. Vikram Batra with his portrayal of him. His charming and humorous demeanour is infectious, and his passion to protect the motherland is unmatched. He soars higher in the uniform and in combat situations, however, his college boy avatar is sort of uninspired.
Shiv Panditt as Capt. Jamwal is a surprise star of the film. His camaraderie with Vikram is showcased in a manner that would make viewers across the world look up to their friendship. He artistically balances the stern and the soft in his character’s personality that makes for an immensely entertaining presence on screen.
All actors, including Shataf Figar, Nikitin Dheer, Raj Arjun, Sahil Vaid, among others, who have portrayed real life people, put their best foot forward. No moment with them on screen feels unnatural or by any means, fake.
Kiara Advani as Dimple Cheema feels most out of place as a Sikh girl from Chandigarh. Her character is required to often deliver lines in Punjabi which she does not do justice to. With limited screen time to begin with, the forced and often broken delivery of the language feels bothersome.
However, she does make up for it to some extent with her emotion driven nuances and her chemistry with Malhotra is unparalleled.
Shershaah holds a lot of positives about it, starting with its beautiful and picturesque cinematography that bring places like J&K, Palampur, and Chandigarh to life.
Often when it comes to army related films, the authentic representation of the institution is vital. It is safe to say that Shershaah passes with flying colours in that aspect. From nature of operations in the valley and accuracy of uniform to chain of command and the entire lifestyle, the represented is highly accurate.
Furthermore, the scenes encompassing the Kargil War itself are fast paced, high octane, and bring out the urgency of one of the toughest mountain warfare situations in the history of global conflict.
Another brilliant aspect of Shershaah is that it is not jingoistic in nature. It tries to stick to the facts and celebrates the soldier it intended to since the beginning.
The VFX is another aspect that blends seamlessly with the narrative, and nothing seems jarring or sore to the eye. A special mention has to go out to the sound design, that plays a vital role in curating the film’s atmosphere and tone. Gunshots, explosions, scattered dialogue, all benefit from a wonderous surround sound experience.
Lastly, the background music is apt in every situation and the use of actual songs in the film is subtle, so, it does not affect the flow of the narrative too much.
The collection of critiques has to begin with the inconsistent tone, that owes itself to subpar writing and direction. The film is at its best during the army and war sequences but falls flat whenever it moves away from it. Most of Shershaah’s flaws actually lie in its inability to decode the perfect script for a martyr’s biopic with respect to a cinematic experience.
It tries to balance a lot within a short runtime and therefore, aspects like Vikram’s family, his college days, and his love life feel pushed aside. The film could have benefitted with a longer duration on the clock, as it may have tackled these other facets better, that now just play second fiddle to the narrative.
The Kargil War is only the third act of Shershaah so it is evident how difficult it must have been for director Vishnuvardhan to finalise a story that can highlight a lot within a limited span of time and do justice to it.
This is also why there is hardly any time to focus on things like character development. Most people in the film are presented in a specific way and they stick to it, with no scope for the writing to actually dissect their personalities.
For instance, Vikram is a goofy Himachal boy who has a brave heart streak inside of him. But to just credit his passion to a TV show from childhood feels unconvincing. Shershaah would have been such a better experience if multiple layers of the protagonist were explored.
One can often feel the need to be pedantic when it comes to biopics and rightly so, but despite the nit-picks, Shershaah is an entertaining experience that definitely falls in the must watch category. It does right by the heroics and sacrifice of Captain Vikram Batra, presents some exhilarating warfare, and the climax will have you reaching for tissues.
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