'Kesari' Review: A winner all the way

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

The Battle of Saragarhi is often described as one of the greatest last stands in the history of mankind. It involved 21 Jat Sikh soldiers (belong to the 36th Sikhs of the British Indian Army) and 10000 to 12,000 Afghan invaders. The Sikhs, led by Havildar Ishar Singh, chose to fight to the death, creating history in the process. Writer – Director Anurag Singh’s Kesari presents a dramatized account of the epic battle that took place in 1897 at Saragarhi in the North-West Frontier Province which is now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. In Kesari, the role of Havildar Ishar Singh is played by Akshay Kumar. Produced under the banners of Dharma Productions, Cape of Good Films, Azure Entertainment and Zee Studios, Kesari costars Parineeti Chopra, Rakesh Chaturvedi, Ashwath Bhatt, and Vikram Kochhar in supporting roles.

Kesari is loaded with symbolism and reminds us of the principles of Sikhism and humanity. For a mainstream film of epic scope it doesn’t back down from offering some good food for thought. And the credit should go to Singh and his co-writer Girish Kohli who do a wonderful job of adapting the important historical event that hitherto has never got the attention it deserves. While these Sikhs are fighting on the side of the British they are not really fighting for the British, for they are fighting to guard their freedom and pride and more importantly for the cause of Sikhism and humanity at large. That’s what makes this battle so much more important than just a valiant last stand. And Kesari does succeed in doing justice to the battle by capturing its right spirit. The Sikhs know that they are outnumbered and that they stand no chance of winning and yet they fight till their last breath to protect what they believe in.   
Rakesh Chaturvedi in Kesari
Rakesh Chaturvedi in Kesari
The film scores well on the technical front as well. The cinematography is of course its strongest point and color grading is just perfect for a period films. If anything, the CGI could have been better at some places. But that’s only a minor glitch in a film of this humongous scale. Coming to the acting performances, Akshay Kumar is superb in the pivotal role. This is easily his best performance since Sangharsh (1999). Equally brilliant is Rakesh Chaturvedi during his spine chilling portrayal of the story's prime antagonist. Parineeti Chopra barely gets any screen time but that’s all but expected from a war film like Kesari. Another actor who deserves a special mention is Ashwath Bhatt whom you would remember as Alia Bhatt’s character’s brother-in-law from Raazi. While the war scenes are not bad at all, the film's true strength lies in its emotional scenes which really pack a punch.
A Still from Kesari
A Still from Kesari
But, despite some flaws, Kesari is a winner all the way. It has all the making of crowd pulling blockbuster. Director Anurag Singh has shown great promise and he seems capable of competing with the likes of Rajamouli and Bhansali one day when it comes to dealing with period films of epic scope and scale. The film also succeeds touching upon some important issues without trying to be preachy. Among other things, it reminds us that Urdu is not just the language of the Muslims as it is often considered these days. Also the film doesn’t back down from putting humanity ahead of religion. There is a scene when the Sikhs refuse to build a mosque for the Muslims. It is here that Havildar Ishar Singh reminds them that the foundation stone of Harmandir Sahib (aka the Golden Temple) was laid by Sai Mian Mir, a Muslim Pir of Lahore, who was personally invited by Guru Arjan Dev to do the honors. On another occasion Ishar Singh commands one of his subordinates to provide water to the wounded soldiers on both the sides. It’s these small things that make Kesari a special film.

Rating: 7.5/10

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