Last Updated: November 30, 2023, 21:34 IST
Sam Bahadur Movie Review: Making a film based on a real-life hero, especially one set against a war and military backdrop doesn’t seem like a hard task. Most material is usually at disposal which makes the work of a scriptwriter somewhat less demanding. There is every bit of material available for any filmmaker to sink his teeth into, and not bother about its finale. However, Sam Bahadur makes you realise that such movies could also be tricky for they could fall into the treacherous terrain between fact and fiction as they need to balance between regulations as a biopic and provide viewers with a lot more content that is not in the public domain.
Director Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur is based on a film based on the life of India’s first field marshal Sam Manekshaw. The titular character is played by Vicky Kaushal and the film has the perfect recipe for a blockbuster. Unfortunately, it ends up being just another film. Given the tone and treatment that the filmmaker opts for, late field marshal Sam Manekshaw’s exploits as an officer and a gentleman add up to a narrative that resorts more to broad strokes than to delving into the nuances of the titular hero’s evolution as the extraordinarily brave man he became.
Despite having substantial material, director Meghna Gulzar — who has also co-written the script along with Bhavani Iyer and Shantanu Shrivastava — failed to take advantage of it and ended up presenting a story that isn’t startlingly innovative. Not that it’s uninteresting, or soporific, or factually incorrect. It just seems like the only thing the makers had on their minds was to present Kaushal as a dependable actor who can carry off a film on his strong shoulders all by himself. The movie about Manekshaw’s illustrious life, sadly, does not possess the propulsive power to leave its viewers feeling incomplete.
Nevertheless, Sam Bahadur seamlessly blends duty, patriotism, and determination which are rich fodder for any film. The scale of the meticulously structured period narrative is grand as it shuns the trappings of a Bollywood biopic. But that certainly isn’t the film’s sole strength. The brilliantly lensed biopic also draws power from lead actor Vicky Kaushal who sinks its teeth completely into the character so much so that there are many times you’d feel that you forget the actor and almost feel that late field marshal, Sam Manekshaw himself is on the big screen. Kaushal’s intense and intuitive performance presents an incredible tale of a man who loved his uniform and his army more than anything else. It is the actor’s best performance, even better than Sardar Udham.
Sanya Malhotra is very aptly cast as Manekshaw’s wife Siloo Bode who is tough on the outside, but emotional from within. Fatima Sana Shaikh is impressive as Indira Gandhi and so is Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub who plays Pakistani General Yahya Khan.
Sam Bahadur sets a higher standard for the genre—the term is used for convenience rather than to imply that there is anything remotely generic in the movie—in a way that the Mumbai film industry, which typically promotes pulpy pop history where actors are prioritised over characters, will find difficult to match.
The information presented on screen may not be entirely true—a disclaimer acknowledges this even though Sam Bahadur is “based on true events”—but the details that screenwriters skilfully cram into the dense script that is meant to evoke a sense of reality.