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Vicky Kaushal admirable in Manekshaw biopic

Sam Bahadur – Hindi (Theatres)20232h 25m★★★☆☆3.5/5Director:Meghna GulzarCast:Vicky Kaushal, Sanya Malhotra, Fathima Sana, Sheikh Mohammed, Zeeshan Ayub

A few minutes into Sam Bahadur, the audience witnesses WW2, with Indian soldiers in the British army fighting tooth-and-nail with the Japanese in Burma. When a grievously wounded soldier with nine bullets in the body says a mule kicked him, the doctor says “Anyone with this sense of humour is worth saving.” This authentic anecdote related to Sam Manekshaw (Vicky Kaushal), Field Marshal, sets the tone for two defining elements of the biopic — by and large authentic but perhaps over-relying on its star’s Bahaduri (bravado) and ready wit.

The biopic chronicles Manekshaw’s journey from his modest beginning as a soldier to his swansong in 1973 as the first-ever Field Marshal of India. The audience also get a glimpse of Manekshaw’s valour, humour and charm — women swoon over him. The narration swings back and forth between his life with his wife Siloo Bode (Sanya Malhotra) and his call of duty. Incidents like his sedition trial, his rise up the ranks and his equation with Indira Gandhi (Fathima Sana Sheikh) are shown. Gripping scenes portray the events leading up to the Indo-Pak war in 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh.

Anecdotal and historical references show the effort behind research, thus enhancing the biopic’s credence. The well-filmed war scenes with strong background music strengthen the film.

While Nehru’s portrayal demanded greater screen space, Indira Gandhi as a decisive and confident leader with a streak of authoritarianism shines. However, several scenes in the second half over-glorify Sam’s machismo and wit, taking away the critical potential from a promising venture.

Kaushal is admirable in another historic role (earlier Sardar Uddham) that demands thorough method acting. His body language and speech strongly resemble Manekshaw and reflect his elaborate preparation. Malhotra comes across as a doting wife while Sana Sheikh strikes an uncanny resemblance to Indira Gandhi and depicts her different shades well.

The biopic is authentic and strong but like many recent attempts in the genre, is fully in awe of its protagonist, taking away some of its critical spice. However, watch it to learn more about a famed general and his thrilling journey.

(Published 01 December 2023, 19:21 IST)

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