Akshay Kumar Does The Heavy Lifting In Tale Of Extraordinary Courage

Akshay Kumar’s much-awaited historical drama Kesari is finally out in cinemas. The Anurag Singh directorial narrates the tale of the legendary battle of Saragarhi that took place in 1897. On September 12, 1897, 21 soldiers of the Sikh regiment of the British Indian Army fought against 10,000 Afghan invaders to safeguard the pride and honour of their country.

The production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray, the stunt coordination by Lawrence Woodward (Mad Max: Fury Road, Peter Rabbit) and Parvez Shaikh (Tiger Zinda HaiSultanGold) and the cinematography by Anshul Chobey more than measure up to the film’s grand ambition.

But it would all have been infinitely more stirring had it been informed with a dose of hard-nosed realism, an element that is sorely lacking in Kesari. The director opts for broad strokes over subtle explorations in probing the wages of war and the psychology of the men in the thick of the action.

Pinning all its hopes on the undeniable star power of Akshay Kumar, Kesari lays it on too thick, leaving little room for the emotional turmoil raging in the minds of the brave men who go into a battle that they have no way of surviving, let alone winning. With the enemy at the gates of the Fort of Saragarhi, the British Indian Army’s communications hub in the remote region, they have the option of abandoning their posts. But the men opt to stay put and fight for pride. Their decision isn’t prompted by the salary they receive, the uniform they sport, or the Union Jack that flutters over the fort.

As the hero puts it after he replaces his earth-hued turban (perfectly in sync with the dry, dusty landscape) with a kesari(saffron) one – it represents courage and sacrifice, he says – his fight is for all martyrs for freedom, all people under foreign yoke and “my Guru”, going from the pan-Indian to the deeply personal and religious in the same breath.Kesari director Anurag Singh had revealed that he sourced books that were written by the Britishers, their biographies and an account of that era when Afghani invaders tried to enter India to ensure an authentic portrayal of the historical battle on the silver screen.

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