Sam Bahadur Review: This Meghna Gulzar Film Is All Foreplay, No Action; Vicky Kaushal Shines!

Erm, this one was a misfire!
Sam Bahadur Review: This Meghna Gulzar Film Is All Foreplay, No Action; Vicky Kaushal Shines!

Vicky Kaushal starrer biopic of Independent India’s first ever Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw aka Sam Bahadur titled Sam Bahadur is all set to release in theatres across India on Friday. Also starring Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra with Neeraj Kabi, Edward Sonnenblick and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in supporting roles, this Meghna Gulzar directorial has been co-written by her along with Bhavani Iyer and Shantanu Srivastava. Produced by Ronnie Screwvala under the banner of RSVP Movies Sam Bahadur is a movie with its heart in the right place but it fails to impress. NGL, but the film lacks a plot and fails to humanise the character and just mechanically goes through the motions.

The Plot Of Sam Bahadur

Starring Vicky Kaushal in and as Sam Bahadur, this Meghna Gulzar film follows the journey of Indian Army Officer Sam Manekshaw who went on to become the Indian Army’s first Field Marshal. The film highlights the key moments from his life and showcases his journey in the Indian Army during the pre and post-Independence era. It also gives us a glimpse into his personal life and his relationship with his juniors, seniors, peers as well as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Performances

Vicky Kaushal as Sam Manekshaw: Vicky Kaushal is known to nail his roles and breathe life into his characters and he did it again with Sam Manekshaw but the lack of character arc and depth did not help the cause. The actor played the role of Sam Bahadur with conviction but there wasn’t much he could do to save the film. No thanks to the shoddy writing. Irrespective, the actor perfected the poise and aura of an Army Office and aced the dialogue delivery but no one can ever ape Sam Manekshaw like Sam himself!

Fatima Sana Shaikh as PM Indira Gandhi: Fatima Sana Shaikh did pique my interest when I watched the trailer but TBH, the actress couldn’t do justice to her character. We’ve seen Fatima do much better work but she fails to perfect the emotions of her character. She seems to be slipping in and out of her character in several places. No offence but the stare-down that Fatima’s Indira Gandhi gives to Sam Manekshaw will make you do a double take, wondering if she’s possessed or pissed.

Sanya Malhotra as Sam’s Wife, Silloo Manekshaw: We’ve seen Sanya Malhotra shine in films like Kathal which genuinely makes me wonder why the actress decided to take up a role which is purely ornamental. Having said that, it’s also important to note that despite the little screen time and half-baked character, the actress tried to do justice to her role. There are light moments when the actress makes you smile with her acting but that’s just what good actors do – make the most out of whatever they have!

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Supporting Roles

None of the supporting actors made a mark throughout the film. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyubs’s Yahya Khan is a blink and miss and the actor seems underused and the same goes for Neeraj Kabi. Having said that, we must give the film the benefit of the doubt since the makers cast actual armed forced personnel instead of actors. But overall, the script did not depend on any supporting actors for support and instead decided to use them as props to drag along the timeline of Sam Manekshaw’s life in this biographical war drama film that lacks, a plot and a war.

Verdict: Despite Vicky Kaushal’s Strong Performance, This Meghna Gulzar Film Lost The Battle!

I’m going to start by explaining everything that went wrong in the film. To begin with, Vicky Kaushal’s Sam Manekshaw lacked depth and the writing could not do justice to a man who won us wars with his ability to strategise and think on his feet. The portrayal of the Field Marshal barely scratches the surface of who he was and how much he achieved. The writing epically failed to humanise the character. Sam Manekshaw was a calm, composed and poised Indian Army Officer and while Vicky Kaushal gave his 100% to do justice to Sam Manekshaw, there wasn’t much he could do due to the writing. NGL but I sat and watched some old interviews of the Field Marshal that humanised him more than Sam Bahadur could as a film.

This film severely lacked the humane touch and did not dive deep into who Sam Manekshaw truly was. Instead, Sam Bahadur barely scratched the surface of his story and failed to explore his relationship with his country, patriotism, his colleagues, his family and so much more. If only the makers had delved deeper, they’d have found a story. This Meghna Gulzar film has a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes but it sure felt much much longer. I spent the first hour forcing myself to watch this film that highlighted the key moments of Sam Manekshaw’s life. I was truly hoping that it would eventually lead up to something but sadly the film has a lot of build-up which ends in disappointment. It creates tension which leads to nothing. The film lacks a strong plot and instead just mechanically goes through the timelines of Sam’s life instead of actually telling his story.

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100 marks to Meghna Gulzar for her storytelling but erm, story kidhar hai? The filmmaker seemed to have been so focused on storytelling that she forgot that her story needed more meat on its bones. For a minute, I truly wondered if it would’ve been better if I sat at home and read Sam Manekshaw’s Wikipedia page instead of watching this visual Wikipedia page but TBH, his Wikipedia page humanised him more and had more depth than the film. While the pace of the film is slugging, Sam Manekshaw’s life story seems to be running at a breakneck speed making it tough to keep up. On that note, allow me to add, it’s no lesson in History so, you might want to brush up on your History before you go to watch this film.

 

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Coming to what works for this film is the cinematography. The film is the perfect blend of original archival footage and the footage shot by the filmmakers to tell Sam Manekshaw’s story. And the best part is that it makes the film seem all the more real. Vicky Kaushal’s dialogue delivery as the cheeky Sam Manekshaw is fun to witness. The punchlines make you laugh and his chemistry with his on-screen wife Sanya Malhotra will make you smile. It’s not the hot and sizzling chemistry that makes your head spin but rather the peaceful and beautiful love and romance that made me go “This chemistry is sizzling”. Fatima Sana Shaikh’s Indira Gandhi may have stared down Sam Manekshaw but the soft spot she had for him was rather evident. It was fun to see their on-screen bond and how Sanya’s Silloo disliked how Fatima’s Indira kept Vicky’s Sam on his toes and was like a demanding third person in their relationship. Silloo’s eye rolls every time Indira called was hilarious to watch and Sam’s oblivion made it funnier! The camaraderie shared by the 3 actors in the second half of the film made it bearable but that’s about it.

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While the actors did their best, the film looked like parts of Sam Manekshaw’s life randomly stitched together that one has to work hard to make sense of. If only this film had focused more on the screenplay and less on the storytelling, this brave attempt would’ve won the battle but ab toh lag raha hai Animal isse kha jayegi! But that does not make it a bad film. If you’re brave enough to not snooze through this film, I’d say watch it considering that I’m giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

 

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Before I conclude, I will take a moment to highlight that while many people would not have been interested in this film considering it’s a biopic of an Indian Army Personnel, to me anything to do with the Indian Armed Forces is close to my heart. As a fauji brat myself, I take immense pride in witnessing such stories on the big screen. Sam Manekshaw was a man of honour, someone who was a true warrior and patriot and as much as I love the fact that this film attempted to pay homage to him, it was a weak ode to the first Field Marshal of India. A man that brave and honourable, deserves a better tribute than one which does nothing beyond giving people capsules of information without telling the world who he is and what’s his story.

Meghna Gulzar’s Vicky Kaushal starrer Sam Bahadur will release in theatres across India on Friday, December 1.

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Janvi Manchanda

​​She uses her pen to slice through patriarchy. She could be Geet one day, Wednesday Addams next. Writing is the bane of her existence and the object of all her desires!

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