What is the story about?
The film traces the life of Kargil war hero, the late Captain Vikram Batra.
Ishida Mitsunari, one of the most legendary samurais of Japan, had once said, "Honour may not win power, but it wins respect. And respect earns power." Years later, this statement could have well been applied to the extraordinary life of the late Captain Vikram Batra. At the height of the 1999 Indo-Pak war in Kargil, Batra's lion-hearted nature and his cocky statement, "Yeh Dil Maange More", captured the imagination of an entire country that was going through its darkest time. As such, it could have been so easy to just focus on his exploits on the battlefield, and not think about him as a regular human being. Director Vishnu Vardhan decides to give equal billing to the man behind the war legend, and it shows in the screenplay. We see Vikram's cockiness and his never-say-die attitude come to the fore right from his childhood. What is even more impressive is how Vardhan and his team actively chart Vikram's internal journey as a soldier, from being the fresh-faced rookie in Sopore in 1998 to the war-hardened planner at the height of the 1999 war. Honestly, the romance between Vikram and Dimple, which occupies a substantial part of the first half, acts as an unnecessary speed-breaker, but once Vardhan shifts his focus to army life and the minefield that is Kashmir, Shershaah moves into a higher gear. You know how Vikram's life will end, but even when the moment comes in the film, you are stunned into silence. I kept getting reminded of how, years ago, Farhan Akhtar had also portrayed the Indian Army in Lakshya. Like Lakshya, Vardhan's portrayal of army life in Shershaah is not bombastic or jingoistic, but rooted in humanity and fragility, and that is what makes Shershaah such a fine war film.
Sidharth Malhotra becomes Captain Vikram Batra. We are so used to seeing Malhotra's face in glossier roles, but we don't often realize how much physicality he actually brings to each of those portrayals. Malhotra captures Batra's spirit through a mix of stubbornness and vulnerability, and it is amazing how his constant finger-tapping helps to bring out the martyred hero's biggest strength: restlessness.
Shiv Panditt is impressive as Lt. Sanjeev Jamwal, Vikram's superior who becomes his friend and comrade. Raj Arjun is solid as Subedar Raghunath, who constantly fears for Vikram's life, but supports him no matter what. Nikitin Dheer is terrific as Major Ajay Jasrotia, while Shataf Figar is suitably dignified as Lt. Col. Y.K. Joshi. Only Kiara Advani sticks out like a sore thumb. Though there's nothing wrong in her portrayal of Dimple, Vikram's love, her track feels like it belongs to a different film.
Music & Other Departments
Cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi is no stranger to the war genre, having previously shot Shoojit Sircar's Madras Cafe, and he is especially impressive here, capturing the mayhem and destruction of the 1999 war in all its devastation in the second half, in tandem with Sreekar Prasad's swift cuts. John Stewart Eduri's background score is suitably restrained.
The war sequences are mounted on a grand scale and make you feel as if you are actually there in the mountains.
The Vikram-Dimple love story acts as a speed-breaker of sorts.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, especially the war sequences in the second half.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. Watch it for Sidharth Malhotra's mercurial turn as Capt. Vikram Batra.