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KESARI - Hits you hard in its final hour but the most unbelievable battle of the world also becomes victim of the typical Bollywood formula, forcibly playing the humour & religion card to provide just entertainment. (Review By Bobby Sing)
21 Mar, 2019 | Movie Reviews / 2019 Releases / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / K

The proceedings of the rare and amazing Battle of Saragarhi between the 21 Sikh soldiers and about ten thousand of Afghan tribesmen are such, that no one would have believed, had it not been an officially documented fact, witnessed by the British officers themselves from the nearby forts.
 
But before moving on to the details about KESARI, one essentially needs to know about:
how it happened and why there was this uneven clash getting the complete information, 
how and why we never remembered this epic chapter of our history in the country itself till the last century and  
how more than one Hindi film project were/are being made on this subject reminding you of the mess we earlier created with so many films together made on Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
 
So if you haven’t read it before then I would insist - do read this long write-up of mine shared in the link below, explaining everything in details. And I firmly assure, you will not find such info in any other article on the web revealing it so clearly.
 
Article: 
21 SARFAROSH: SARAGARHI 1897 (Netflix India Series), more lesser known facts about the unique battle and Bollywood’s craze for the epic reminding you of those multiple films made on the life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Now assuming you have read the above article, let us proceed further to the review of KESARI.
 
Giving you the exact picture, KESARI begins uninterestingly with no exciting introduction of its lead man Akshay Kumar and then keeps proceeding following the typical Bollywood formula seen in this particular genre of War films in its next hour.
 
It’s the formula, wherein the hero gets introduced as a noble, honest man having his own values, who cannot see injustice happening in front of his eyes. A sequence establishes his value system and then we move further towards the clichéd entertainment bringing in the humour. Yes, you read it write, as here we do have HUMOUR coming repeatedly in the entire first half of the film which is based on the Battle of Saragarhi and also titled KESARI representing the Sikh identity!!!!!!. 
 
But wait, I can understand why Anurag and his co-writers willingly or unwillingly had to put in repeated references of humour (read lame jokes) into the narration, because nowadays it is strongly demanded by the producers, irrespective of the seriousness of the subject, to make the project (or product) more commercially viable appealing to the general audience. 
 
Anyway, though it might sound shocking to many but KESARI does remain a light hearted (comic) film focusing on its lead character and the 20 other soldiers posted at Saragarhi in its first half, wherein the 20 Sikh men are also introduced in a hilarious manner on the screen, greeted by repeated laughter in the theater, which I personally felt quite uncomfortable with to be honest. May be because I wasn’t there for this kind of entertainment wherein I was supposed to laugh upon the 20 soldiers of Saragarhi and some silly jokes cracked on them.
 
Thankfully, the director’s focus shifts from entertainment to the promised content post intermission and the narration rightly goes back to business where we get to witness the finest hour of the film including an impressive climax.
 
In short the final one hour of the film remains the major USP of KESARI apart from the rare subject or its star hero. And it’s here that we get to see a praiseworthy cinematography, many loud-bloody but jaw dropping actions sequences and the finale killings which make you feel for the loss with immense proud in your heart and tears in the eyes.
 
Listing the merits of KESARI,
its biggest merit is its informative value, since with the present huge reach of Hindi cinema all over the globe, the film will certainly spread the word about the rarest, bravest and unbelievable kind of lesser publicized part of our history which was not even known to the majority of people living in the country itself. Therefore now post KESARI, The Battle of Saragarhi will be known to people living in all parts of the world where Hindi films are released or fondly get seen through various sources.
 
The second merit of KESARI is its final hour as stated above which actually makes you forget the director’s too casual approach towards the subject displayed in his first half and which forces you to walk out of the theater respectfully thinking about the 21 brave men and their proud sacrifice.
 
And thirdly are the performances, which largely remain consistent as a strong pillar in the film’s second half in particular making a strong impact (discussed later in details). 
 
Coming to the shortcomings, they are actually much more than the merits stated in the following points: (*mild-spoilers ahead)
 
1. The biggest drawback of KESARI is the make-up of its leading man, which looks utterly fake and stands way apart from all other Sikhs in the battalion who look much more authentic with a far better and original looking beard on their faces. Cannot say why anyone in the team didn’t point it out to director Anurag in the first look-test or first schedule itself. 
Besides I also saw one of them with trimmed beard in the early part of the film and don’t think at that particular time period any Sikh used to trim his beard at all.
 
2. The use of typical Bollywood formula drastically pulls back the film in its first half, when you get to see the same pattern of long introductions, some silly comedy and a clichéd love angle of the lead hero repeatedly remembering his beloved (Parineeti in a cameo) and singing a song with her too bringing in all clichéd visuals. 
 
3. As fearfully expected, KESARI mostly remains focused on the ONE MAN alone and he is hardly out of sight in its entire duration. 
In other words, in a hard to believe battle fought by 21 Sikhs together as a team we are never made familiar with the 20 of them as individual characters, who only get into focus in the final hour of the film during the long combat sequences. In fact due to this very reason you don’t find any emotional connect with these characters throughout the film and it keeps progressing on the same flat note except the well-directed finale.

4. The writer-director deliberately plays the Religion and Nationalist Card due to the obvious reasons as that is bound to work in the present times. Hence, we see only the hero wearing a different colour turban (as the film was called KESARI) even when it is not supposed to be a part of the uniform or allowed as per the British rules. 
 
And then they even go on adding references of Jihaad, exploitation of a woman by an Afghani Mullah and information about who laid the foundation stone of Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple Amritsar) in its various sequences. In fact the very first sequence of Ishar Singh (Akshay) saving a woman, straight away killing an Afghan in front of their own people holding weapons, is fully filmy in its execution forgetting the logic.

5. But if that could be accepted, in one sequence Ishar Singh visits a village in the region (where all the young men have gone to fight the enemy) and then returns back to the fort informing the others that we need to help the villagers built their masjid. 
Now who are these villagers? – They are supposed to be The Afghans only ready to shoot any British/Indian soldier at site. But forget that, as then Ishar Singh and almost all his men posted at the fort, strangely leave the Saragarhi fort (that was supposed to be carefully guarded) and come to build the mosque in the village of Afghans forgetting all about their assigned duty as soldiers.  
 
6. But that is not all, as the forceful insertion of a character with the reference of Bhai Kanhaiya from Sikh history (who used to provide water to the wounded from both the sides after the day was called off in the war), also looks completely out of place as there was no way anybody could move out of the fort in any hour of the attack. 
 
Here I also couldn’t understand that for what the war was being stopped in the mid (in the film), when it all happened in the day time at one go. Probably because they had to insert a typical confrontation scene between the Mullah and Akshay coming out of the fort within the war hours itself, along with the person feeding water to the wounded as required. 
 
Actually as per the recorded history, this was an 8-10 hours long war (starting from the morning of 12th September) during which the 21 Sikhs or anyone else never came out of the fort and the Afghans had to move back repeatedly due to the unexpectedly powerful, strategic attack coming from the fort. So there was no way anyone could have gone out of the fort to offer water to the wounded as shown in the film. In straight words this was a weird kind of insertion which cannot be accepted even as creative liberty taken as this is not fiction but a duly documented historical chapter of our history.
 
5. Further there is no emphasis, importance given to the British officials and there are no details shared of how communication was established between the three forts through a Heliograph (with the help of sunlight which solely remained dependent on the Sun). Moreover the casting of the British officers is really questionable as you see this same person playing the role of the British officer in several recent period films and he is also the one who comes as a comedian in Kapil Sharma’s Comedy Show too, which would not have been of any concern, had he looked and performed brilliantly in his given role.
 
6. More importantly, any such story of clash or war is as good as the casting and presentation of the villain or the opponent. And here the opponents are nothing more than routine caricature kind of characters who spell no terror on the screen of any kind. Rakesh Chaturvedi Om, who does the negotiations, appears too weak to be their main leader and equally surprising is the actor playing Gul Badshah who was supposed to be a strong, influential figure among the Afghans. On the other hand, both the mysterious sniper and Mir Sarwar as Khan Masood looks well suited for the role and Mir should have been cast as the main opponent.
 
7. Lastly the film presents the history through some intentionally and smartly sculpted sequences suiting the present era of hatred ruling the minds all over. In specific words, both the 21 Sikhs of Saragarhi and the Afghani rivals would not have even dreamt that after more than a century, their clash for the land will be falsely presented as some hateful rivalry between two religions giving it a different colour........ KESARI.
 
Coming to the soundtrack, it’s as usual routine with no particular track lifting up the film and only the patriotic one making the maximum impact due to its timing and accompanying visuals. Personally speaking, I was eagerly looking forward to at least one well-composed devotional track in the film as it was boldly playing the religious card without any holding back. But couldn’t find it in the film and the last best devotional Gurbani track in a Hindi film, still remains the one in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s HALLA BOL sung by Sukhwinder.
 
Anyway, despite all the above mentioned shortcomings and an average VFX, the three strong features which still make KESARI work are its informative value along with the impressive costumes/art direction, sincere performances and the final hour making a rock solid impact on the viewers, which should ideally make it achieve the Hit status.
 
Overcoming the handicap of a bad make-up, Akshay successfully manages to win hearts both in a light hearted avatar in the first half and as a strong, deadly fighter in the second. The same can be said about the 20 other soldiers in his team too, though there are not given the mileage or attention they all truly deserved and the film still more or less is a One Man Show like a standard Hindi film (visible in most of its posters too).
 
In short, this is writer-director Anurag Singh’s highly fictionalized account of the events intentionally titled KESARI, in which he willfully focuses more on the Sikh identity of the soldiers instead of the other way round.  As a commercial product this strategy will surely work finding big number of takers both within the country and abroad suiting the present scenario.
 
But since I was more interested in a real film and characters, showcasing the events in a more realistic form, KESARI only partially worked for me having a disappointing first half.
 
Elaborating on the same, was really surprised to see humour in this film and that too in such dosage involving the 20 brave Sikhs. Honestly I was not there, interested or comfortable in laughing while watching a film made on the soldiers of Battle Of Saragarhi.
 
But it's possible you might be interested in that and don't mind all those supposedly funny moments/lame jokes looking for your weekly entertainment in a film titled KESARI based on the war of Saragarhi.
 
Therefore my vote goes to the TV series 21 SARFAROSH (available at Netflix) instead, since that remains a far better, worth applauding and a miles ahead take on the epic chapter of our history in all respects. Especially in its authenticity, detailing, proper characterization, casting and respect shown for the subject as it should be.
 
So if you want to get casually informed, entertained & emotionally touched remembering the martyrs then watch KESARI.
 
But if you want to get properly informed, entertained, enlightened, enriched and deeply touched, making the most of your time spent, cherishing some authentic thoughtful work on the unbelievable history, then watch 21 SARFAROSH at the earliest and do a favour to yourself.
 
Saluting the brave hearts of Saragarhi led by Havaldaar Ishar Singh, would once again like to repeat that in the present world of availability, it all actually depends upon your wise choices made - about what you should be seeing and spending your precious time upon. 

Rating : 2.5 / 5 (Would have loved to give it more, but the lame jokes cracked on the 20 brave soldiers in the film don’t let me do so!)

An important afterthought days after watching the film as shared on FB.

Just like KESARI based on a different history,
now I am forced to think that in the present era of pure business, if someone makes a bio-pic on Subhash Chandra Bose or his Azaad Hind Fauj, 
then will the first half of that film too be filled with comedy and jokes just to make it a commercially viable entertaining project.

Am thinking hard........ perhaps this makes you think too.

(Bobby Sing)


Tags : KESARI Review By Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, KESARI Movie Review by Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews by Bobby Sing, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing, Hindi films on The Battle of Saragarhi, Hindi Period Films, Historical Films in Hindi Cinema.
21 Mar 2019 / Comment ( 0 )
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