Sam Bahadur Captures Manekshaw’s Charisma In Spurts

Sam Bahadur
Sam Bahadur

Sam Bahadur

Rating: *** ½

Was Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw  anything like Vicky Kaushal? Yes, and  no. While Vicky Kaushal does capture some of  Field Marshal’s  gregarious charm, much of the original’s vitality  gets lost in translation.

While we  cannot fault Meghna  Gulzar for her research work,  much of the  screenplay feels  like the Wikipedia  page on  Manekshaw. We can close our eyes and listen to the  narrative descriptions and know exactly what is  happening on screen.

Visually  the film is eyecatching but lacking that ‘epic’ quality  that  separates  the men  from the boys in an army battalion. What comes across is Sam’s unflagging spirit, his unwavering commitment to being an Indian without  having to  prove it with flagwaving.

Vicky Kaushal  , a reasonably talented actor, is  not  equal to the task on hand.He tries hard to  echo the original’s three Bs—bravery, benevolence  and  bravado. But mimicking the original  doesn’t quite amount to a comprehensive  character creation. Kaushal  conveys  a measured charm , But Manekshaw, he  ain’t. Sorry. 

Sanya Malhotra as  the Field Marshal’s  beloved wife Silloo doesn’t look Parsi.The performance is lackluster, to say the least. But then she can’t be blamed.  Like all soldiers’ wives she  has  grumble about her absentee husband and smirk when the phone  rings, ‘Wahi hogi’. Wahi,  being Mrs Gandhi.

Worse still is Fatima Sana Sheikh’s  Indira Gandhi. With her squeaky voice and  diminutive  presence she  cuts  a sorry figure.What works rather well is the synergy between Manekshaw and Mrs  G. There is  an understated chemistry  between the two which Meghna Gulzar is able to  bring to the screen in spite of  the two actors playing the two imposing personalities being anything but imposing.

   Meghna  Gulzar shoots  some rare character-defining  moments  in Manekshaw’s  personal interactions with Gurkha soldiers  or that wonderful rapport he  shares with his grumbling bullying South Indian  cook . In such intimate moments Vicky Kaushal captures the humanism of  a man who valued the sovereignty  of our country but also loved his time off with Biwi, rum , dancing and flirting .

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