I am the kind to openly cry when reading books, listening to songs, or watching movies. Yet, I couldn’t shed a single tear through Sardar Udham – not because I wasn’t moved. But because I was numb with the realistic and harrowing portrayal of India’s freedom struggle, and one man’s fight for freeing his nation, as showcased in the film. 

Suffice to say, Sardar Udham is one of the most brilliant and relevant ‘patriotic’ biopics to have come out of Bollywood in a long, long time. 


Directed by Shoojit Sircar, and starring Vicky Kaushal in the lead role, Sardar Udham is a biopic on Indian freedom fighter and revolutionary, Sardar Udham Singh. The story of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919, and the subsequent assassination of Michael O’Dwyer by Sardar Udham Singh is well-known to most Indians.


And yet Shoojir Sircar expertly weaves a story that brings alive the horrid ordeal and its aftermath in excruciating detail, (the last 30 minutes showcasing the actual massacre are physically difficult to sit through) leaving you feeling like a stranger about your own nation’s history. 

The treatment is shocking but necessary to wash away the hyper-nationalistic fervour that Bollywood has been peddling in the name of patriotic films in the last few years. 

The movie begins with O’Dwyer’s assassinations and then jumps timelines, as Singh travels into his past while undergoing torture and incarceration in the present. In an age where even a 15-second reel can’t hold someone’s attention span for long, the film’s jumping timelines, and slow pace, can make it difficult to get hooked to the story initially. But that’s also the genius of the film. 

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It draws you into Sardar Udham’s story slowly, giving away little by little, and arousing your curiosity (though it’s riddled with an impending sense of doom) so that even a well-known story seems fresh. 

Of course, here, Vicky Kaushal’s impeccable performance deserves due credit. Kaushal taps into the same restrained rage and anguish that he displayed as a young Deepak in Masaan 6 years ago, to deliver a career-defining performance as Sardar Udham Singh. 

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He has a handful of dialogues in the film, and one broken monologue during his courtroom appearance. But it’s his actions, his gestures, his eyes that speak volumes – they draw you into the horror he witnessed under the British rule, the people that shaped his ideologies, and the events that pushed him to fight for freedom. Simply put, Kaushal’s performance is literally, far too brilliant to be put into words. 

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At the same time, elements such as the film’s highly authentic setting, dialogues that are impactful but not melodramatic, and a haunting theme track (by Shantanu Moitra), come together to make Sardar Udham one of the finest films of the year. 

It took me back to the few films (Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti) that showcased both, the courage and cost of fighting for your rights. It’s a difficult film to sit through, but one that perhaps, is all the more relevant in today’s era where we use the name of freedom fighters without understanding the ideology they fought for.

After all, there was a reason why Udham Singh referred to himself as Ram Mohammad Singh Azad during his prison term. 

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Sardar Udham is a turning point in Bollywood’s history of patriotic films, for showcasing that for all the glorification that movies award India’s freedom struggle, the reality was harrowing, heartbreaking, and devastating.