“Sam Bahadur,” directed by Meghna Gulzar and featuring Vicky Kaushal in the lead role, attempts to dramatize the remarkable life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. With the backdrop of Gulzar’s previous successes in “Talvar” and “Raazi,” and Kaushal’s proven prowess in portraying characters with a patriotic fervor, the film promises much but falls short of delivering a compelling narrative.
The movie lacks the nuance required to do justice to the complex life of Field Marshal Manekshaw. While waiting for a moment of cinematic brilliance, viewers are taken through a series of episodic events without a clear central conflict. The storytelling is linear and fails to delve into the intricacies of Manekshaw’s character, resulting in a biopic that feels more like a hagiography than a nuanced exploration.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, Vicky Kaushal shines in his portrayal of Manekshaw, capturing the character’s gait, vocalization, and charm with confidence and authenticity. Sanya Malhotra, playing Sam’s wife Silloo Bode, adds emotional depth to the narrative, complementing Kaushal’s performance. However, the portrayal of Indira Gandhi by Fatima Sana Shaikh is criticized as unsteady, attributing the blame to the casting choice.
The film’s music is deemed loud and distracting, a surprising letdown considering the musical prowess of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and their successful collaboration with Gulzar in “Raazi.” The use of archival footage adds a documentary gravitas but contributes to the film’s passive linearity and abrupt time leaps.
“Sam Bahadur” is described as sweet and engaging in individual segments of Manekshaw’s life, well-shot and designed, particularly in air strikes and combat scenes in Burma. However, the film struggles to seamlessly connect these segments, resulting in a disjointed feel, especially in lighter moments like Manekshaw’s banter with his radio set-carrying cook.
While the movie may offer glimpses into the extraordinary life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, its overall execution leaves much to be desired. The focus on individual vignettes lacks a cohesive narrative, making it a facile and forgettable reel powered primarily by Vicky Kaushal’s performance.