Film Review: Shershaah

Film Review: Shershaah

Starring: Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani, Shiv Panditt, Sahil Vaid, Pawan Chopra

Director: Vishnu Varadhan

War films as a genre have a dedicated fan base and those based on real-life episodes of bravery and sacrifice fall into a whole different category. This latest Amazon Prime release targets the latter with its biopic of Captain Vikram Batra, a famed Indian Army soldier who was instrumental in India recapturing a key peak during the bloody Kargil War against Pakistan in the hills of Kashmir in 1999.

We meet Vikram (Malhotra) as a little boy playing gully cricket in a small hilly town of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh and fighting a bloody-minded battle to get back his ball from the hands of some bullies; much to his twin brother Vishal and father G.L. Batra’s consternation. But Vikram has a simple mantra in life even as a teenage boy – no one can snatch away what is rightfully mine.

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It is this single-minded purpose and a popular television series of the 1980s documenting the bravado of the Indian armed forces that inspire Vikram to pursue a career in the Army. A passionate love affair with college mate Dimple (Advani) briefly derails this mission to consider the Merchant Navy instead, for its attractive perks and greater stability, but his childhood friend Sunny (Vaid) reminds him of his true passion in life since they were little boys.

His love life with Dimple meanders through some choppy waters but eventually deepens even as he notches one successful mission after another under his belt during his posting with 13 JAK RIF battalion in Jammu and Kashmir. But it is when war breaks out with the encroachment of the Pakistani forces from across the border that Vikram’s sheer grit and determination are on full display. He is almost itching to get in the middle of the bullets and grenades to win back what rightfully belongs to his country and unfurl the Indian tricolour on all the key peaks dotted across an extremely arduous mountainous terrain.

The swift promotion of Lieutenant Batra to Captain, codenamed ‘Shershaah’, and then his legendary escapades that won him India’s highest military honour of the Param Vir Chakra are fairly well documented over the years. However, this instalment with Malhotra in the role of Vikram Batra and all the Bollywood glitz of a war film do the true story much justice.

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The supporting cast, including Advani as the demure yet fiery Dimple, and some of Batra’s battalion mates as well as his seniors all play their part to tug at the heart strings. The war scenes replete with gunshots and rocket launchers are well crafted and feel quite realistic.

All in all, as far as war biopics go, this one has much going for it. And, with the bloody end to this tale of bravado well known, the audience is somewhat prepared for its many tear-jerker moments.

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