Mixed reviews for Sarbjit from critics.
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Sarbjit Review by Indicine
Omung Kumar who got away with bizarre story and casting decisions in Mary Kom repeats his mistakes. He is unable to focus on a part of Sarbjit’s or Dalbir’s story and instead makes it a saga with too many high pitched melodramatic scenes. Sarbjit could have done with deft handling of the emotional scenes and subtlety would have been the way to go for such an emotionally disparaging story. Even though there’s a lot of material to sift through, the movie jogs along and is plagued by too many slow scenes. Sarbjit is made a lot better by the cinematography showcased in the movie. There’s a lot of maturity in the way the film has been shot. The detailing is also upto the mark, but the editing lags behind with many scenes going on for far too long. The music of Sarbjit is decent with no chart toppers.
Sarbjit Review by Bollywood Hungama
Utkarshini Vashishtha and Rajesh Beri have carefully pieced together a story smeared with blood, tears and sweat. The dialogues are hard hitting and the fact that Punjabi is frequently spoken is never a hindrance in communication for the Hindi speaking audience. Omung Kumar is obviously passionately involved with the cause of prisoners on both sides of the border and at the end makes an impassioned appeal that politics shouldn’t be played when innocent lives are involved. He doesn’t hold anything back and tells the story the way it ought to have been told. The torture sequences and Sarbjit’s state in the jail can be disturbing to watch but Kumar couldn’t have sugar coated the reality and he ensures that the audience will watch the hard facts so that hopefully the gruesome atrocities will never be repeated on either sides of the border.
Sarbjit Review by Saibal Chatterjee on NDTVMovies
The script seems more intent on giving the heroine a platform to holler and hector her way though than on crafting a balanced narrative that tracks the impact of Sarabjit’s disappearance on the family as a whole. Randeep Hooda is an exceptionally gifted actor and has clearly put in a lot of effort to get into the skin of the character. But he is let down by the creative choices that the writer (Utkarshini Vashishth) and the director make on his behalf. Richa Chadha chews up everything in the frame every time she is allowed some elbow room. Unfortunately, she has only two and a half scenes at best in which to display her wares. It is obvious that the strategy is to not let her upstage the ‘bigger’ star. With the star not shining all that bright and the actors in the mix not allowed to play the game their way, Sarbjit is a well-meaning outing that fails to do justice to its subject. Watch it only if you are an Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan fan no matter what.
Sarbjit Review by Manjusha Radhakrishnan on Gulfnews
However Randeep Hooda is nimble footed here. His deterioration in the Pakistani jail is shockingly brutal and well acted. The violence is gritty and real. The scenes that have been orchestrated to underline the closeness between the siblings touch a raw nerve. Actress Richa Chadda is splendid in her limited role as the eternally hopeful wife. She acts with her eyes and keeps it subtle. Her arms — unlike Bachchan’s — don’t flay belligerently to convey her despair. Perhaps, you can never take the Miss World out of the former beauty queen. Another downside to Sarbjit is that Kumar tries to infuse a few trademark Bollywood sentiments into the drama. A wedding that has been designed to showcase Rai’s graceful dance moves and scenes that highlight the sturdy bond of Indian families don’t add much to the issue at hand: Justice, that was allegedly, delayed and denied.
Sarbjit Review by Lokesh Dharmani on Masala
Randeep Hooda is in his best form. After Laal Rang, he packs in another powerful performance. He plays the character, his dialogue delivery, his body language, the change in his character are enacted so well that you feel his agony. There is a scene in the second half where he breaks down. It’s quite a tearjerker. Aishwarya-purple-lipstick-Rai-Bachchan is a bit too screechy in the film. She has got the Punjabi accent well, but doesn’t quite own the struggle of Dalbir. The story is sad. The treatment is bad. It is long and loopy and manipulative but it hurts more because it is based on a true story.
Sarbjit Review by Sreeju Sudhakaran on Bollywood Life
Sarbjit should have been the film that could have brought out issues of human rights being oppressed in favour of political games, but what it turns out to be is a nearly three hours of inconsistent and flawed storytelling. Watch the film purely for the performances, especially Randeep’s and the core plot!
Review by Charu Thakur on India Today
Of the cast, Randeep Hooda stands out as he demonstrates the emotional toll of the physical abuse and solitary confinement Sarabjit endured, making audiences empathise for the man who obtained freedom only with death. He also does a credible job with his Punjabi delivery. Chadha’s job here is to look mopey and faint whenever the need be, which is throughout the film barring a few songs. There’s just one scene to showcase the wife’s point of view in this sister-dominated act and she does well. Aishwarya Rai wails and shouts a lot and has another struggle – with the Punjabi accent. But she does shine in rare, few moments of silence. Darshan Kumar steps late in second half to play the sole good Pakistani soul in lawyer Awais Sheikh who fights for Sarabjit and is attacked by his own countrymen.
Review by Shubha Shetty Saha on Mid-Day India
So, it is largely thanks to a memorable performance by Randeep (who went through a remarkable transformation for the role) that your heart goes out and you might even end up shedding a few tears for the man who lives on the faint hope of being free and reunite with his family in the face of constant torture and surviving in inhuman conditions. With a story so touching and a performance this brilliant, the director had half his battle won. He has more or less managed to pull it off too, but it definitely could have been better if there was more emotional depth and steadfast sincerity towards the plot, instead of taking it through the usual filmi melodramatic route once in a while. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has a meaty role as she plays the immensely admirable character of Dalbir Kaur, who chose to spend almost her entire life fighting for her beloved brother’s right to be free, instead of wallowing in self pity.
Review by Jaidev Hemmady on Movietalkies
Omung Kumar certainly had his heart in the right place when he made Sarbjit and one can see that a lot of emotions have been put in the story. But there are places where the film tends to go a bit overboard in the melodrama department and there is way too much ‘rona dhona’. There is a fine line between emotions and melodrama and the film tiptoes across the line at times, which might prove to be a dampener. The story of Sarbjit is quite tragic and maybe Omung felt that a certain melodrama is required to hammer the point home, but Kumar forgot that restraint can make a bigger and better impact in certain situations.
Review by Manisha Lakhe on Nowrunning
One has seen torture in action movies and it doesn’t matter so much because you know that it is a chance for the hero to show off his muscles, and that he will escape and beat up the baddies. But the torture here is needlessly graphic and it adds to the melodrama of the film. One doesn’t want to use that word again and again for the film, but that’s the effect it has on the audience. If you watch the real life sister speak for the release of her brother (it is available on YouTube), you will find two and a half hours of the movie as just needless drama. The photographs during the end credits manage to bring an almost lump at the tragedy but it is too little too late.
Review by Raja Sen on Rediff
Kumar’s last film, Mary Kom, had no flow from scene to scene and played through like a Powerpoint presentation on the boxer, bolstered only by Priyanka Chopra’s performance. This time around, the director tries too hard to get things to flow, starting with much cross-cutting only to end up with a highly linear and disjointed narrative with ill-suited songs. There is earnestness, however — even in Rai’s performance — but this is not an effective or emotional film. It is, in fact, the 80s Doordarshan version of Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Review by Martin D’Souza on Glamsham
SARBJIT is watchable only because of Randeep Hooda who goes right into the skin of the character. He is watchable and draws some amount of pity with the way he endures the torture. However, the same cannot be said of any of the other cast who are just there to make up the numbers on screen. SARBJIT on his own was not an intense subject. Government apathy and a focus on those languishing in jails without a cause should have been the focus. That would have made the film more meaningful.
Review by Mehul S Thakkar on Deccan Chronicle
Overall, the film takes you on an emotional ride and makes you question a lot about the political crisis between two countries. It is up to the audience to judge whether Sarabjit was an Indian spy or an innocent farmer. However, his journey is something that must be experienced in the theaters.
Review by Pallavi Patra on Zeenews
The biopic will strike a chord for its genuine attempt to share a story not told on the celluloid before, coupled by stellar performances of its lead, particularly the man himself – Randeep Hooda. Once again, Randeep has proved what a gem of an actor he could be. Powered by good story telling and amazing performances, ‘Sarbjit’ is bound to sail ahead, anchored by its true spirit and commitment.
Review by Sonia Chopra on Sify
Director Omung Kumar picks up a real-life story yet again, after his debut film Mary Kom. Sarabjit is an ambitious story to pick for a second film, riddled as it is with undertones of Indo-Pak political tensions, human rights issues and the like. Kumar does a fair job, but the film bears the brunt of melodrama rearing its head in the form of flashbacks and over-the-top dialogue. And honestly, the director quoting himself at the end of the film is bizarre. As is usually the case, the last few minutes where the film shows us photographs of Sarabjit and Dalbir have a huge impact, much more than the film put together. In the end, you’re glad someone picked this subject and brought it on the big screen. This may not be very fulfilling as a film, but it should be watched for the extraordinary story full of unbelievable love and unbelievable cruelty.
Review by Sarita A Tanwar on DNA India
The director is armed with a story that has very limited scope on screen. So there is an enhanced effort on making the screenplay interesting. Omung Kumar succeeds in creating an ensemble of dramatic scenes. In isolation, some of them would, therefore, seem effective. However, that’s just not good enough. The scene where Sarabjit’s family comes to meet him in the Pakistani prison is filled with emotion. Or even the one where his wife (Richa) is going through his belongings after his death. But sadly, a handful of scenes can’t make a film work.
Review by Shubhra Gupta on Indian Express
A real-life tale which is inherently so full of drama and heart-break has no need to be artificially revved up. But mainstream Bollywood doesn’t know any other way to do things. ‘Sarabjit’ should have been called ‘Dalbir’, because it is Aishwarya doing all the heavy-lifting, to distressing little impact. First off, she is all wrong for the part, her attempts at the rural Punjabi accent slipping up every so often. And then she goes full tilt at her lines, ratcheting up the volume, to such an extent that you want to tell her to hush. When she does, go silent that is—precisely for two and a half scenes– she is able to convey her pain and anguish so much better. If she had modulated her act, ‘Sarbjit’ would have been a better film.
Sarbjit Review by Indiaglitz
The story is hard-hitting and interesting. Every scene involving Randeep Hooda is brilliant, you simply cannot take your eyes away from him. Remove him from the film and you will find a huge vacuum in the film. The usage of political events is brilliant and gels perfectly with the flow of the film. The end credits with usage of real life pictures of Sarabjit and family leaves you with goose bumps. There are some great dialogues in the film, which should have been more instead of overdose of Punjabi dialogues. The cinematography is of top notch and does full justice to the theme of the film. Director Omung Kumar sets up a right base for such type of film and presents it well by adding stars and good production values. He highly succeeds in extracting some great performances by his actors but fails little bit in executing the film. Randeep Hooda is simply fantastic and the best thing to happen to this film. He makes the whole film believable. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is good in few scenes, especially the protesting ones. She looks beautiful in the initial part of the film followed by her strong screen presence in the finale portions. Richa Chadda lends good support.
Review by Sweta Kaushal on Hindustan Times
However, given the very real context of the plot, the movie is an almost fictitious, drum-beating melodramatic saga that suffers from an overly-worked-up lead actor. Applause is due for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who plays the struggling Dalbir. But, in the same breath, the 42-year-old actor doesn’t manage to bring alive the character. Her lip-twisting, chest-thumping and shouting does not help either. Instead, the melodrama alienates us from an otherwise evocative character.
Review by Meeta on Wogma
While you could blame a film’s missing connection on dialogue and performances, here it slips at the first step itself – the narrative. It doesn’t help then that the other aspects of the film are trying so hard that the effort is way too obvious. Be it the dialogue, the protagonist’s performance, the photography or the background score.
Review by Srijana Mitra Das on The Times Of India
Yet, the story deftly weaves in a larger backdrop, from Pokhran to Parliament, 26/11 to Kasab, the editing sharp, the visuals – blue-green skies, grim dark cells, Sukh’s red ‘lapstick’, Sarbjit’s blackened ankles – memorable. The direction depicts a human being and a human truth – individuals often face prisons of politics where the innocent can be shackled in darkness. Sarbjit breaks your heart – but in contrast to India-Pak fantasies like ‘Gadar’, it bears no blame. It makes you cherish your loved ones – and appreciate others too. Sarbjit makes a point. Humans come and go. Humanity survives.
Review by Kunal Guha on Mumbai Mirror
Director Omung Kumar’s ambitions of delivering biopics could be considered a safe bet, assuming it would at least interest those who care for cinema inspired by reality. But this vehicle derails at an insane clip and grates on one’s patience. The production in-charge takes his job very seriously. When a person’s effigy is being garlanded with footwear, every shoe and slipper snaking around the bust happens to be green in colour, only because this protest is being staged in Pakistan. This film could’ve been the surprise winner of the year, given the effort pulled in by Hooda and Chadha. But the camera’s obsession with Mrs Bachchan ensures that their compelling performances are restricted to the background. Purple lipped or not, this one is a miss.
Review by Subhash K Jha on Bollyspice
As for this being Ms Bachchan’s Mother India, I am not too sure if hyperbole is an option here. Sarbjit has immense poignancy at its heart. But the execution of the theme of a homesick dying man imprisoned in a hostile country often tends to lean dangerously close to populism. Sarbjit manages to keep its head above the water even while the proceedings frequently revel in crowd-wooing conventions like singing dancing and rabble-rousing rhetorics. For all its concessions to high drama and populism Sarbjit is a moving testimony to these troubled times when cross-border politics overpowers humanism. There is still hope.
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