Kesari review: Formulaic, forced patriotic tale
Fails to touch you emotionally
By: Troy Ribeiro/IANS
Critic's Rating: 2.5/5
Thursday 21 March 2019
Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Edward Sonnenblick, R. Bhakti Klein, Mark Bennington
Led by Havaldar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) of the 36th Sikh Regiment, it's the story of 21 gallant Sikh soldiers who died at their post while defending the fort of Saragarhi from Afghan invaders on September 12, 1897.
History claims that they were attacked by 10,000 Afghan tribesman in retaliation to the British control of the area.
While the writers have taken every care to circumvent any major historical mistakes or errors of period detail, the dumbing down of messages, including the act of patriotism, is lazily crafted. For example, we are told what does Kesari signify, who laid down the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib and why these Sikhs were ready to lay down their lives.
They throw dates and place names on to the screen as if what you are about to see is a faithful reproduction of events, when they are simply trying to pass off their fiction as authentic. An intelligent viewer will surely throw back their line to them -- "Chal joohte" -- at various points.
Also, the pace of the narrative is an issue. Feature films have to have a whole range of staple ingredients. One such element is the "arc of character", in which the leading actors have to go through a form of moral metamorphosis as a result of the experiences they undergo. So we have glimpses of Ishar Singh's personal life, breaking through this glass ceiling.
The other elements are "emotions and humour". Visualise this: Amidst an intense battle scene, when one of the soldiers removes his turban to aid his bleeding colleague, the severely wounded soldier, on seeing the grey strands on his colleague's head, light-heartedly tells his mate, "Are tu tho buddah hai yaar," to which the turbanless soldier retorts, "Buddah hoga tera baap."
Kudos if the situation was real, but on screen, such frivolous scenes break the intensity and momentum of the flow. And, they are far from being funny.
There are no complaints on the performance front. Every actor performs his part to perfection. Akshay with his flowing black beard is initially hard to digest, but he bites into the skin of his character to give a sincere presentation. Parineeti Chopra as his wife is perfunctory. The rest of the supporting cast are all natural and earnest.
On the technical front, the director has carelessly overlooked many frames that would hold the viewers' interest. Among those are the frames during the battle, when the brave Sikh soldiers in their anxious moments are clutching their guns, ready to fire. While aiming, their fingers are off the trigger -- these shots appear as juvenile poses.
While the wide shots capture the landscape in all its glory and transports you to the terrain, the mid-shots and close-ups, especially when Ishar draws a circle with a sword, or when a dagger pins a shoe on the rampant or the shots that capture the glorious death of each Sikh soldier, these shots appear painstakingly artistic and fake in nature.
The music seamlessly meshes into the narrative. The song that plays in the last act does make you feel sad for the soldiers.
Overall, Kesari with its meandering pace, formulaic staging and forced patriotic messages fails to touch you emotionally.
Reactions from Social Media
Arjun Kapoor @arjunk26
You don't need to be a Sikh to feel connected to #kesari !!! Absolutely blown away with the emotion, it's a story that deserves to be viewed on the big screen because of director @SinghAnurag79's vision his team of actors & technicians deserve immense credit in pulling it off !!!
Twinkle Khanna @mrsfunnybones
A moving story of extraordinary courage with some kick-ass action -my absolutely biased opinion :) I really really didn't want to but ended up crying at the end like everyone else watching #Kesari
Every frame is tailor made for @akshaykumar magnificent, the sight of him brandishing a sword is a sight to behold ..#kesari is brilliant , casting especially of all the 22
Manjinder S Sirsa @mssirsa
#Kesari is truly a wonderful movie - make sure you make your kids watch it
#RangDeKesari @akshaykumar @karanjohar
Kiara Advani @Advani_Kiara
#KESARI is such a well made film, so beautifully shot it's visually captivating! @akshaykumar Sir you add so much depth to each character that u essay. Congratulations @DharmaMovies @SinghAnurag79 @ParineetiChopra & team for telling this brave story with so much valour & emotion
Akshaye Rathi @akshayerathi
#Kesari is an incredible story of sacrifice & bravery that every Indian will be proud of! Watch it at a cinema near you! It's worth every bit of the time & money you'll invest in it! @akshaykumar @ParineetiChopra @karanjohar @apoorvamehta18 @amarbutala @ZeeStudios_ #AnuragSingh
taran adarsh @taran_adarsh
Chronicles a significant chapter from history brilliantly... Nationalism, patriotism, heroism, scale and soul - #Kesari has it all... Akshay's career-best act... Anurag Singh's direction terrific... Don't miss! #KesariReview