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#UKAsianReview: ‘Sarbjit’ – Make sure you have a pack of tissues handy…

Sarbjit

After proving his mettle as a director with his last outing ‘Mary Kom’ starring Priyanka Chopra, Omung Kumar is back with yet another power-packed real-life drama in ‘Sarbjit’, which is bound to tug at your heartstrings.

Starring Aishwarya Rai, Randeep Hooda and Richa Chadha, the film boasts a strong cast with great acting potential.

‘Sarbjit’ tells the story of Sarbjit Singh – a farmer from rural India who accidentally crossed the unmarked Pakistani border in 1990, only to be discovered by Pakistani officials and mistaken for a terrorist involved in a series of bombings that shook Pakistan.

Accusations were hurled at him and he was kept in prison for years until he was finally given the death sentence.

His family, mainly his sister Dalbir protested the sentence, slowly garnering support from the Indian public and the media.

The Pakistani authorities postponed the death sentence innumerable times due to the uproar it caused.

Just when Dalbir and her family thought there was hope for her brother to finally see some light, he was attacked by fellow in-mates and died a tragic death six days later, succumbing to his injuries.

Though her last film ‘Jazbaa’ failed to rake in the moolah at the box office, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is back in a completely de-glam avatar as the feisty Dalbir.

She plays the role of the loving sister earnestly and makes you weep uncontrollably with her.

Credit must be given for her spot-on Punjabi accent. Despite rumours of her not being able to get along with co-star Randeep Hooda, their chemistry as brother and sister in the film is impeccable and their meeting in prison will break your heart!

That Randeep Hooda is a terrific actor is widely known, but he outdoes himself in this film.

Confined to just a prison cell for most of the film, and the man still manages to shine. Essaying a helpless and tortured Sarbjit who craves nothing but a return to his family and to see his daughters, Hooda makes you feel strongly for him.

Richa Chadha supports him brilliantly, and oddly, they make a really good couple. Playing the role of Sukhpreet, she is understated in her performance yet extremely memorable.

Special mention to Darshan Kumaar, who plays a short but significant role that escalates the mood of the film.

Props for achieving this has to be given to director Omung Kumar, who manages to extract nothing but strong and hard-hitting performances from his actors.

It is evident that Kumar put in a lot of research to understand Sarbjit’s story and Dalbir’s struggle to bring him justice. Given that the film spans over 20 years, he had the mammoth task of compressing significant moments from their lives and fitting that into a 160 minute film, which he has done very well.

It also gives you a glimpse into the tough lives of those in rural India and makes you wonder how many Sarbjit’s could’ve been out there and whether or not justice will ever be served to them.

While the film makes for a good watch overall, it does come with its fair share of problems.

It has unwanted song and dance sequences, which does nothing for the narrative.

It’s about time Bollywood starts to stray from the typical, formulaic song and dance numbers and instead focused on telling a compelling story visually. The first half of the film also lags in pacing, and only picks up momentum when the story focuses around Rai’s protests.

There’s also a silly scene with a stereotypical ‘baba’ in the film who predicts Sarbjit could be in Pakistan, which was rather comical and had the audience laughing instead of being glued to their screens.

It is interesting that Bollywood is churning out real life stories and women centric films one after another.

A pleasant change from the ‘leave your brains at home’ genre of films they’ve become synonymous with of late. Despite Sarbjit’s flaws, the film does make for a good watch.

Our only advice is that you take a little pack of tissues with you because it might just leave you moist eyed.

‘Sarbjit’ is in UK cinemas 20 May.

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