Review: Sardar Udham, A portrayal of a man steeped in history and enigma

Sardar Udham is a biography of a man of history and mystery, a pre-Independence rebel renowned for a single act but whose life had many moving pieces, directed by Shoojit Sircar. Sardar Udham is the latest in a series of biopics about historical figures whose colourful lives lend themselves to fictionalisation.


Shoojit spent over two decades making this picture, which is unquestionably the most impassioned of his passion projects. When he came to Mumbai from Delhi, he wanted to relate this story. However, due to a lack of funding or assistance, he would be unable to realise his ideal for nearly two decades. Sardar Udham Singh waited 20 years to realise his dream of avenging the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which took place in his hometown. Fortunately for those of us who live in a free country or are viewing this masterpiece of a film, none of them was willing to compromise. A simple murder, or a less-than-perfect account of it, will not suffice.


Sardar Udham ticks all the boxes, particularly the most important ones: intent and execution. At its essence, the film is simply about a hero's quest for vengeance against a villain who has destroyed all he once loved. We've read and seen various versions of it throughout our lives, but it's rarely conveyed with such ferocity and nuance. Udham (Vicky Kaushal) was a small child when he witnessed one of the world's most heinous killings. It's a trauma that spans generations, compelling him to devote his life and death to avenging the villain who inflicted it. Shoojit, on the other hand, avoids taking the easy way out.


Through many scenes, the villainy of Michael O'Dwyer (played by Shaun Scott), the guy responsible for it all, will be drilled into your mind. Whether he's delivering speeches about the 'responsibility of the white man' to save India from savagery or defending the 'necessity' of murdering thousands while sipping scotch in his house, there are multiple moments for you to feel the wrath that blazed in Udham for years in your chest.


While the audience's disdain for O'Dwyer grows, Udham's actual heroism is shown only in the final hour of the film. And believe me when I say that nothing can prepare you for the final hour. Rarely has a Hindi film been so courageous to be bold and unable to delicately represent the truth of the violence and absolute misery that still lingers in the minds of people who were once afflicted. Shoojit is unrelenting, making you go through over 60 minutes of excruciating sights as if punishing you for not remembering the tragedy frequently enough. The effect, on the other hand, is not something that most spectators would agree with.


Without Vicky Kaushal's brilliance, though, none of this would have had the same impact. As Sardar Udham, he gives a one-of-a-kind performance that spans three decades of his life. He's as enigmatic as a spy, sauntering around London's streets with murder on his mind. As he sings eloquent talks about freedom, he is also a revolutionary. But it's as a 19-year-old Amritsar lad who is thrust into atrocities beyond anyone's imagining that he shines brightest. Vicky left you with your nails digging into your own fists as the frolicking boy in love comes at the awful final hour. Anyone can't be untouched by his body's fatigue and the despair on his face.


Its a must watch and I will give it 4 stars out of five