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Film Review: Sam Bahadur [Sam, the Brave]

Film Review: Sam Bahadur [Sam, the Brave]

Starring: Vicky Kaushal, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub,

Director: Meghna Gulzar

Based on the life of Sam Manekshaw, the first Indian Army officer promoted to the prestigious rank of Field Marshal, this film has grabbed headlines ever since its release. Now streaming on ZEE5 Global, the celebrated Indian war hero known as Sam Bahadur continues to make waves.

We meet Sam Bahadur (Kaushal) as a Casanova cadet, more interested in romancing in bars than following Army discipline of the academy during the sunset years of the British Raj. But after a chance encounter with the love of his life, Silloo (Manekshaw) – who was to become his long-suffering and adoring wife – we see the makings of a rare breed of man who wears his fearlessness and bravado with ease on the battlefield. His acts of bravery take on the status of myth and legend when he survives nine shots in the stomach during World War II.

It is this reputation as an upright and honest officer of the Indian Army that sees him through many a controversy and eventually entrenches him as a trusted aide of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Shaikh), who takes on the reins of India during uncertain times of war with neighbouring Pakistan. Will this bond between the two overcome the machinations of detractors or will it only get stronger?

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While the heart of this biopic lies in the story of a peerless war legend, it beats around the shaky chemistry between a novice politician and her trusted military adviser. The biggest winner of this heart-warming true story is Vicky Kaushal, who completely embodies the character of Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw – India’s former Chief of Army Staff. He morphs himself into the celebrated war hero to such an extent that it’s easy to forget that he is only essaying a role.

Meghna Gulzar’s familiar soft touch direction of a tough subject adds a decisive lilt to this cinematic journey. Where this film falls woefully short is in Fatima Sana Shaikh’s many failed attempts at capturing the essence of Indira Gandhi – a female Prime Minister known for her gravitas and strength of character. Shaikh’s Indira comes across as a timid and insecure political leader, desperately seeking Sam Bahadur’s counsel every step of the way.

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The meanderingly long time taken by the story to unfold across several wars fought and won by India under the Army Chief was perhaps unavoidable, but it does make the movie feel like a drag at points.

However, it is a worthy cinematic effort to capture the genius that was Sam Manekshaw, not least because of Kaushal’s convincing turn as ‘Sam Bahadur’.

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