Kesari Story: A retelling of the Battle of Saragarhi where 21 Sikh soldiers fought against an Afghan army of 10000 men in the year 1897.
Kesari Review: The Battle of Saragarhi is considered to be one of the most inspiring stories of human valour and bravery, not just in India, but the world over. Director Anurag Singh’s film Kesari is a fitting tribute to this story of Sikh soldiers. It’s a compelling war drama that combines strong emotions with blood-soaked action and retells an important chapter from the annals of Indian history. The film’s best moments are fuelled by a towering performance by Akshay Kumar.
Kesari is a powerful film because it has an innate sense of emotional intelligence and raw shock value, too. It showcases the atrocity of war and violence unabashedly, always condemning the bloodshed at hand and forever celebrating the bravery of men. It’s not just an action film, it’s a war drama that spends time in establishing its main characters and gives the audience a detailed and authentic look at a story of true patriotism. The film is beautifully shot by Anshul Chobey and the production design Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray is equally important in making the dry and dusty setting of North-West province (now in Khyber, Pakistan) look authentic. Here’s where the CGI also makes a big contribution in making the snow-capped backdrop of the place look pitch perfect. The editing, sound design and action choreography in Kesari are all top-notch. The inclusion of Gatka, the Sikh martial art is a fine moment, too. Even the costumes by Sheetal Sharma add to the intricate details. Anurag Singh’s entire technical team deserves a standing ovation for this film.
You can’t craft a solid film without good writing and that’s where the efforts of Girish Kohli and Anurag Singh shine through as well. The writers have seamlessly woven in moments of high drama, humour, wit, sarcasm, tragedy and action into the narrative. The best part is, there’s also a lot of historical wisdom as the film keeps referencing Sikh and Islamic legends. At one point, the chief antagonist declares wars on the British and Sikh soldiers inciting jihad and his fellow leader reminds him that Islam does not propagate violence in the first place. Such is the detailed writing that every character in the film has an emotional point that helps the audience identify with them.
At forefront of all the action though is the central character of Havildar Ishar Singh. The last time a Sardar was as fierce and awe-inspiring was in Gadar. Ishar Singh is as much Anurag Singh’s character as it is Akshay’s and he’s the embodiment of true Sikh values and pride. His nobility is a match for his bravery and to watch him command the emotions and gusto in Kesari is pure joy. This is what cinematic heroes should be like and Akshay Kumar does complete justice to the role. Parineeti Chopra gets a small but impactful role, and it’s her character’s fun banter with Akshay that puts a smile on your face and her tears break your heart. Rakesh Chaturvedi Om as the Afghan leader is very convincing with his radicalism, too.
With technical brilliance, intricate writing and thundering performances, Kesari is a loud war cry that evokes strong feelings of patriotism and it also wrenches your heart with its climactic tragedy. The visceral power of its visuals and emotions is staggering.