Sardar Udham film review: a turbulent slice of India’s colonial past

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Cast of the film Sardar Udham: Vicky Kaushal, Stephen Hogan, Shaun Scott, Kirsty Averton, Andrew Havill, Banita Sandhu, Amol Parashar
Director Sardar Udham: Shoojit Sircar
Sardar Udham movie rating: Three stars

March 13, 1940, London. An Indian walks into an orderly meeting where Michael O’Dwyer, former lieutenant governor of the Punjab province, gives a lecture on the legacy of the white man’s burden, and how, under British rule, the “Indian savages Were brought under control.

The man waits for the end of the speech, crosses the room to face Dwyer (Shaun Scott) and shoots him at close range. The latter falls to the ground, blood accumulating around him. Udham Singh (Vicky Kaushal) has finally accomplished what he promised twenty years ago, after his traumatic testimony of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. General Dyer (Andrew Havill) may have given the order to shoot the hundreds of peaceful protesters, men, women and children, but it was Dwyer who pressed the button. For Udham Singh, revenge is cold, but it’s just as sweet.

The film tells us that it is “based on real events”, but stays safe with the usual warnings of taking “creative liberties and dramatizing events for cinematic expression.” Given how thin we have gotten about performances of all kinds, it seems like filmmakers can never escape these kinds of statements that force their work to become life-threatening. Can we then call “Sardar Udham” a biopic, or should we just stick with “a period article about a little-known Indian revolutionary” whose act spread from the heart of Imperial London to his distant colony? in the East, fighting for independence?

Shoojit Sircar’s film is a long, unhurried recreation of a checkered slice of India’s colonial past, traveling back and forth from Punjab to London, with a few detours here and there. I found the first hour a bit laborious, where we see, in a series of flashbacks in a flashback, the difficult arrival of Udham in London and his quest for support, his arrest and his painful interrogation. A Scotland Yard inspector (Stephen Hogan) oversees the torture between interrogations, and why, if Udham knew the English language, even hesitantly, did he need a translator?

There are other strands that appear to be loose ends, such as the appearance of a group of IRA (Irish Republican Army) sympathizers, one of whom, a strong-faced, dark-eyed young woman named Eileen (Kirsty Averton) seems to have a sweet place for our hero. Udham is also in contact with a handful of Indians who were left without leadership after the dissolution of the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republican Association), a fledgling formation created by the fiery young rebels who were chosen by the British. We see, briefly, the warm association at home between Udham and Bhagat Singh (Amol Parashar), and the quiet romance between Udham and the lovely Reshma (Banita Sandhu), but the movie, out of necessity, always comes back to Udham and his actions. in London.

It is when he arrives at Jallianwala Bagh and the brutal mowing of these innocent people that the film, ironically, comes to life. At that point we spent enough and more time in the cold London prisons and saw the crystallization of Udham as a man who can take a million hits to his body but will not bow to his oppressors . It is this part, where we see the relentless cruelty of the men who order the murder of Jallianwala Bagh, the relentless shooting at the mob desperately trying to save their lives, and the heart-wrenching sight of the dead and dying, that makes this the film. makes perfect sense: sometimes testifying is the only thing you can do, even if it is the most difficult thing to do.

Until then, it felt like maybe Kaushal was too young for his part, especially considering that Sircar had Irrfan in mind for that. But in this portion that leaves an indelible imprint on his soul, Kaushal rings true. Udham, stunned and shattered, works through the night, transporting the wounded to safety, each foray into the pile of bloody bodies, moaning a trip to hell. And then you know why the director took his time with this part: there are no shortcuts when we want to do justice to the representation of the monstrosity of the tragedy, and its “retort that we still feel in the street. from Amritsar ‘.

At one point we hear a young rebel say that he cannot be biased, castist or communal, and that “equality for all” is the most important thing. If things had been different, if these young rebels had lived long enough to shape India, would their thoughts have made the country a different place? When asked repeatedly for his name, Udham Singh and brutally tortured for his silence, he extends his arm which is tattooed: Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. Would this composite name have any credit in today’s India? And is this the country for which these young rebels gave their lives? This deserves careful thought.


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