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Shershah: A remembrance to the 'lion king' of Kargil war

Shershah: A remembrance to the lion king of Kargil war

There isn't probably an Indian born before the 2000s who doesn't know who Captain Vikram Batra is, for he was the face of Indian soldiers in the Kargil war of 1999.

The 24-year-old Vikram Batra and his men fought one of the toughest battles in the annals of India's military history to clear the enemy bunkers in the Kargil sector and force the Pakistani army into a full retreat from Indian soil. Upon completion of his mission, the nation posthumously honoured Captain Batra with the Param Vir Chakra on August 15, 1999, for his exemplary courage and sacrifice on the battlefield.

The film aptly titled "Shershah", the code name given to Vikram Batra during the Kargil operation, is an attempt to pay respect to India's bravest of the brave soldier.

Directed by Vishnuvardhan, the cinema chronicles the key milestones in Vikram's personal and professional lives. It portrays his journey from a naughty kid in Palampur to a restless young "Fauji" who is always ready to go the extra mile for guarding the nation.

The story gets narrated through a Ted-style talk of Vikram Batra's twin brother Vishal (played by Malhotra himself), remembering Batra's act of courage and leadership in the war. As Vishal speaks, the movie flashes back to Vikram's childhood, his budding college romance with classmate Dimple Cheema (played by Kiara Advani), cut to him joining the Indian Military Academy (IMA) and getting commissioned as a lieutenant into the 13 JAK RIF battalion where Batra's life takes a definitive turning point.

Sidharth Malhotra pushes the envelope to portray the young, jovial, committed and 'Pura filmy' Vikram Batra. It's evident that Sid has done a lot of hard work to pull out the fierce soldier on-screen as accurately as possible. I must say, he has done his best to deliver the lines with the right emotions, with his usual charm.

Though the screenplay written by Sandeep Shrivastava does justice to the documented details of Batra's life, the film follows a very predictable arc and fails to go beyond the flat narration to add more depth to the other characters in the film. Perhaps, a little more elaboration about the cause of war and background planning might have helped to add more layers to the movie.

The supporting characters in the movie, though they appear in very few scenes, have marked their presence in the film. Shiv Pandit's performance as Lt. Sanjeev Jamwal (Jimmy), Shataf Figar as Lt. Col. Y K Joshi, Raj Arjun as Subedar Raghunath and Himanshu Malhotra as Cpt. Rajeev Kapoor among others has excelled within their limited screen space. The "brotherhood" and team spirit between the soldiers have also come out well.

The Vikram-Dimple love affair, which is a prominent sub-plot in the movie did not work as intended despite the actors striking real-life chemistry, due to poor writing. Except in one scene where Dimple makes it clear to her father that she won't marry anybody else, she is mostly left hanging for the rest of the narrative.

However, it is commendable that at a time when Bollywood is becoming more political and "patriotic" than ever, Sandeep and Vishnuvardhan have carefully refrained from endorsing fiery jingoism to market their film. Also, as far as war sequences are concerned, the film succeeds in hitting the right notes without being excessively loud or exaggerated.

Kamaljeet Negi's cinematography is one of the high points of the film. The crucial war scenes that are captured in real locations depicts the chilling intensity of the combat. The aerial shots of the Indian army approaching the enemy bunkers from the rear sides to recapture Pt.5140 at an altitude of 17,000 feet are skilfully done and exciting. The handheld shots and VFX also heighten the magnitude and chaos of the war.

As Vikram and his fellow men move further up to seal Pt.4875 and hoist the tricolour national flag, your chests swell with pride. The movie ends with the archival footage of the real Vikram Batra, to remind us about what soldiers were going through, and how they managed to keep their spirits high to give the ultimate service to protect our country and its people.

The story of Vikram Batra and his men in the Kargil war is something every Indian needs to be told to understand what it means to be a soldier. This makes Shershah a perfect watch on this Independence week - Yeh Dil Maange More!

The film made under the banner of Karan Johar's Dharma productions is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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TAGS:ShershahVikram BatraSandeep ShrivastavaVishnuvardhanSidharth MalhotraKiara Advani
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