Released on Amazon Prime 12th August 2021
Indian war films do follow a certain template and the challenge as a director is how you make it engaging within that genre. Director Vishnu Vardhan’s biopic on Vikram Batra has all the typical ingredients but to the credit of the director he takes a restrained approach, the result is a very watchable film. It also helps that leading man Siddarth Malhotra is in good form. The film can be a game changer for Siddarth. Shershah was a code name given to Vikram Batra during the war.
For those who are not aware Vikram Batra was an officer of Indian army. He was posthumously awarded with Param Vir Chakra for his actions during the 1999 Kargil war. He led one of the toughest operations in mountain warfare in Indian history.
The film’s narrative arc is quite similar to Jahnvi Kapoor’s Gunjan Saxena which was also produced by Dharma. In the opening scene we see Captain Vikram Batra and his troops in middle of the action while they are on their way to destroy the last Pakistani bunker that would recapture the peak. From here we move to the structure of a flash forward narrative. The story of Vikram Batra is narrated by his twin brother also played by Siddarth Malhotra.
The most interesting aspect of the film is Vikram Batra’s equation with the Kashmiri people during his first posting as a lieutenant. We see him getting along with a lot of ease with the local people. He calls them Chacha, uncle etc. The elders also trust Vikram Batra more than his senior officers.
Also read: Ray (anthology): A good tribute to Satyajit
A good example of that is the scene where an elderly man talks to Vikram Batra regarding his son. The son had joined the militants and now he wants to come out of it. While it is difficult to imagine whether all this happened in reality but nevertheless it makes for an engaging watch.
The film comes alive more in the second half when the action shifts to the war. The cinematography by Kamalijeet Negi effectively captures the atmospherics of war and the action scenes along with V affects combined get you into the mood.
The music by Tanishk Bagchi, B Praak etc is also fine and the songs don’t act as speed breakers. My favourite song is the Ranjha one.
The supporting characters have also been written with certain amount of care. Whether that is Shiv Pandit or Sahil Vaid. These supporting characters add quite a lot to the film. Shiv Pandit is particularly impressive out of the supporting cast. The camaraderie that Vikram Batra shares with these men is quite nice to watch.
The love track between Siddarth Malhotra and Kiara Advani’s character Dimple has its share of moments but it isn’t something memorable. It also doesn’t help that Kiara’s Punjabi accent is all over the place.
A big strength of the film apart from its real life story is Siddarth Malhotra’s performance. The actor looks the part and manages to capture the spirit of the real life Vikram Batra. The part of the twin brother isn’t much but he shines there too.
What pulls down the film is some unnecessary things. For example there is a Madhuri Dixit reference in a middle of a war. It feels quite out of place and could have easily been done away with.
Also the writing will remind you of several other war films like Uri etc. But that has also got a lot to do with a fixed template that lot of filmmakers have been using to narrate these kind of stories. A film like Raazi is an exception.
In a nutshell watch Shershah for the spirit of Vikram Batra.