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Image Source : Indian Express

Quite a few days have passed since the release of Sarbjit, a biographical film directed by Omung Kumar (of Mary Kom fame) and starring Randeep Hooda (Sarabjit Singh), Aishwarya Rai (sister Dalbir), Richa Chaddha (wife Sukhpreet), and Darshan Kumar (lawyer Awais Sheikh) in key roles, but the movie has failed to attract audiences to the theaters. The box office collections have dipped after an average opening weekend.

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Image Source : India

Sarbjit is based on the life of a Punjabi farmer, Sarabjit Singh, who in August of 1990 mistakenly crossed the India-Pakistan border in an inebriated state and got jailed and sentenced to death after being perceived as the terrorist and spy Ranjit Singh Mattu by authorities across the border. The film is narrated from the point of view of Sarabjit Singh’s sister, Dalbir, who fought valiantly to secure the release of his brother for 23 years, before he was proved innocent and readied to be released on bail and then beaten and killed by inmates in April of 2013.

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Image Source: Trendinfo

Here’s the Sarbjit trailer, if you haven’t already watched it:

While the real life story is gut-wrenching, the film botches up a great story and presents it in an overly dramatic template colored with shades of patriotism. Much of the drama comes from — no prizes for guessing — Aishwarya Rai, who is handed the role of carrying the film on her shoulders (despite the rest of the cast featuring great actors), a role she doesn’t fulfill despite her best efforts. That her struggle and failure to capture the Punjabi nature and accent was clearly visible on film gets in the way of the story telling itself. Director Omung Kumar himself attempts to push the story in a certain direction, which unfortunately backfires as the film quickly loses its way and, in parts, becomes absurd.

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Image Source : Bolly Arena

The general consensus has been that Aishwarya Rai was not the right choice for the role. It was difficult for her to essay the role of Dalbir, who in real life mobilized support everywhere she went in India, called up politicians and celebrities and fought all the way through to help secure the release of her brother, only for her efforts to unfortunately go in vain.

Omung Kumar was also called out for casting Priyanka Chopra to play the role of a small town, Manipuri girl in his similarly dramatic biographical film, Mary Kom, but Chopra’s acting talents and better writing somehow pulled the movie through despite its many drawbacks. Sarbjit is simply disappointing.

What’s acknowledged across the board is the superlative performance by Randeep Hooda, who despite his limited screen times disappears into his character and does a phenomenal role of playing a Sarabjit Singh who’s ever-smiling and never quite giving up — a refreshing look at the title character’s life and attitude. Richa Chaddha also excels and commands screen space in the very few scenes she finds herself in.

Towards the end of the film, and before the credits are rolled, stats are flashed on the screen that say 403 Indians still remain in Pakistani prisons while 278 Pakistanis languish in Indian jails, suggesting that they’re not numbers but real human beings, many of who are innocent. The film draws attention to this terrible truth, but one would’ve hoped for a much better film to have carried such a significant message.