Sam Bahadur Movie Review Rating:
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Sam Bahadur Movie Review Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)
What’s Good: Vicky Kaushal’s attempt at bringing one of the most biopic-worthy characters in Sam Manekshaw on screen
What’s Bad: The collective work of the team to narrate a story in the most confusing and vaguely uninteresting way
Loo Break: Quite a few times!
Watch or Not?: Only and only if you can sit through 150 minutes of a film to watch how well the lead acts
Available On: Theatrical release
Runtime: 2 hours 30 minutes
The story revolves around the life of Army Chief Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw played by Vicky Kaushal and how he deservingly got titled ‘Sam Bahadur’ by an army officer in the Gorkha Regiment of 8th Gorkha Rifles. The man served in the army even before the partition in World War 2, and after that, he contributed to Sino Indian War (1962), the Indo-Pak War of 1965, and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
It also explores the stirring relationship Sam shared with then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi (Fatima Sana Shaikh), how he would say “I am always ready, sweetie” to her when asked if he was ready to go to war with Pakistan. It shows the journey of the man who was always a soldier first before anyone else.
Sam Bahadur Movie Review Out! (Picture Credit: RSVP Movies/Youtube)
Sam Bahadur Movie Review: Script Analysis
Meghna Gulzar reunites with Raazi’s script-writer Bhavani Iyer, and brings in Shantanu Shrivastava (Badhaai Ho, Tevar) to the mix of this unpredictable trio. Unfortunately, the execution falls into the trap of being this routine army inspiration story, checking every stereotype you could name for such films. You know, if two military men are talking about having ‘tasty food’ after being hungry for days due to war, there will occur a sudden battle not to let them have that satisfaction serving a jumpscare.
Gulzar takes the routine route to depict the story of a man who was anything but routine, and that’s where the major loophole is. She reflects the trademarked charisma of Manekshaw through Kaushal but also makes him say cliched things like “I know I would marry you” to a girl he’s meeting for the first time. She displays his valor in its full glory. Still, she also makes a British army medic say, “Anyone with this sense of humor is worth saving,” who’s interviewing Sam as he’s soaking in blood immediately after getting hit by seven bullets throughout his body. I know Sam himself has narrated these incidents before, but when it comes to execution, they lack the finesse and depth such sequences require to create any impact.
Jay I. Patel’s camerawork fails to evoke the thrill you usually desire from the action scenes of such films. Apart from a war scene in which the Indian army gets surrounded by the opposition from all sides in a jungle at night, there’s not a single action piece to even discuss anything about. Yes, it’s a biopic and not an actioner, but it’s based on the life of a person whose life was a war and battlefield, his second home. It’s like Ridley Scott making Napoleon and sucking at showing the action scenes, which he absolutely nailed – read our review here. This needed someone like Avik Mukhopadhyay to elevate the scenes, which didn’t rely heavily on Vicky Kaushal’s performance.
Now, there are things that I really think Meghna Gulzar could’ve been involved in for a greater impact, but I totally understand why she didn’t. We all love our home very much. Displaying his off-the-wall chemistry with Indira Gandhi, Sam once revealed how he quoted the Bible when she asked him if he was ready to go to war with Pakistan; he had said: “Let there be light & there was light, you said let there be war & there is war.”
His famous line, “Wonder whether our political masters in charge of our defense can distinguish a mortar from a motor, a gun from a howitzer, a guerrilla from a gorilla,” didn’t find any place. The iconic, “If a soldier says he’s not afraid of death, He’s either lying or he’s a Gorkha,” went missing. Also, his conversation with then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, telling him, “Drinks and pretty girls will ruin you,” to which Sam cheekily replied, “They haven’t ruined me so far,” was skipped. These were just a few things that would have introduced a few more high scenes telling us more about the person he was.
Sam Bahadur Movie Review: Star Performance
The ever-so-dependable Vicky Kaushal is in there from frame zero. He puts in so much effort to bring back Sam Manekshaw through him, and at times, those efforts actually cross some boundaries. Full marks for the physical mannerisms, but the accent gets too inconsistent throughout. At times, he’s literally mimicking Dev Anand & I understand Sam had a very peculiar accent, but the tone Kaushal catches isn’t streamlined to be of the same tempo. Just like Sam, he smoothly switches between languages, and that’s a tough one to crack. Vicky had everything going for being the best version of Manekshaw the movies could ever see; the writing lets him down.
The most Sanya Malhotra as Sam Manekshaw’s wife Siloo gets is visibly annoyed every time he comes home to inform about his transfer to another state, and so does the actor who plays their household; there’s not anything majorly different between the two. Fatima Sana Shaikh is now the worst Indira Gandhi we’ve seen on-screen, worse than Flora Jacob in Raid, who didn’t even show her face for the role. Indira was in her 50s when she met Sam and Fatima; in no way or angle looks that age, even the prosthetics are so lazy that she seems more like herself than the character. Forget looking; she’s not even asked to work on how she sounds. As we all know, Mrs. Gandhi had this conventish accent that reflects nowhere. She looks like a college kid dressed like Indira Gandhi in a Fancy Dress competition happening on Independence Day, and even there, she wouldn’t have won the competition.
Neeraj Kabi as Jawaharlal Nehru & Govind Namdeo as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel too follow the same fate as Fatima’s Indira. It’s worse for Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub because the prosthetics team actually tried to make him look like Yahya Khan and failed miserably at it. Ayyub’s act is as pretentious as his make-up.
Sam Bahadur Movie Review Out! (Picture Credit: RSVP Movies/Youtube)
Sam Bahadur Movie Review: Direction, Music
Meghna Gulzar fails again after Deepika Padukone‘s Chhapaak, and the reason is still the same: a half-baked script and its hampered execution due to a lousy screenplay. Just like Chhpaaak, she tries to balance the flaws with a mind-blowing performance by the lead, but it doesn’t elevate the product on the whole.
Ketan Sodha’s background score is as predictable and routine as everything else in this film; it gets loud and tries to overpower the narrative at times. From the trio responsible for songs like Kandhon Se Milte Hain Kandhe, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag; you don’t expect anything less than exhilarating, and spoiler alert: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy disappoints as well.
Sam Bahadur Movie Review: The Last Word
All said and done, this had all the right ingredients to be made into an epic war biopic, but we get black-and-white montages instead of elevating action scenes, only hinting at how there could’ve been budget issues to shoot the same.
Two and a half stars!
Sam Bahadur Trailer
Sam Bahadur releases on 01 December, 2023.
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For more movie recommendations, read our Khichdi 2 movie review here!