Recounting an unbelievably true story of the 1890s, Kesari chronicles the courageous battle fought by 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army against 10000 to 12,000 Afghans called the Battle of Saragarhi. Touted as one of history’s greatest last-stands, this valiant battle by the Sikhs derailed the plans of the Afghan army to capture the bordering forts, Lockhart and Gulistan, within the set time frame. Starring Akshay Kumar in the lead role, this film depicts the entire event from start to finish primarily with the magic of fictionalized storytelling and extreme patriotism inside a lengthy, never-ending 150-minute runtime.
The problem with movies ‘based on true events’ is the storytelling can perhaps end up being formulaic and lackluster. Intermittently, very few writers will crack the code of incorporating actual events with fictionalized sequences and making an entertaining film. A prime example of the aforementioned situation is the recent blockbuster film Uri: The Surgical Strike which had a well-balanced script across-the-board. Kesari, on the other hand, disappoints with its cut-and-dried narrative structure. It pursues all the storyline clichés that we expect it to, whether it’s the rebellious hero introduction scene, his defiant attitude, the heartless antagonists which only do and speak things which amplifies our hero’s emotions. It’s a consistent problem throughout the runtime and spoiled the outcome of the film ultimately.
Furthermore, the characters, which predominantly carried the film were also equally monotonous. The Sikh Soldiers weren’t given any weight at all and personified with incredibly plain backstories. For example, a newly-wed bride who had to leave his family right after his marriage, a father of a six-month-old. Writers Anurag Singh and Girish Kohli gave it their best shot by even taking detours amidst the on-going narrative to make these brave characters look compassionate, but tanked when all is said and done. In addition to this, Akshay Kumar’s character as the rigid, no-nonsense, incredibly helpful comrade-in-arms has all the exhilarating one-liners. But, a lucid past involving his wife, Jeevani Kaur (Parineeti Chopra) who appears as his inspiring imaginary pal in the middle of crucial scenes was so dreary as it didn’t enhance his character on any account.
On the positive side, even though it’s inaccurate, the film succeeded in portraying the character’s nationalist emotions at the top-level. Every five-minutes a patriotic line is vocalized, and the superhuman abilities were at the display on every occasion when a fight was warranted. But then again, the filmmaker fails in making use of these sporadic opportunities and ruins it with outworn and exhausting slow-mo action scenes which only extended the already long two-hour-thirty-minute runtime.
Overall, despite Akshay Kumar’s noteworthy performance, Kesari falls flat in regards to storytelling, building up memorable characters and developing a tighter narrative, not beyond two-hours. Nothing in this movie exhilarates me to go recommend it to a friend, even the awe-inspiring true story of the Sikh Soldiers. I recommend you to go read the Battle of Saragarhi Wikipedia page or any related books listed in the article instead.
Rating – 2/5 | Grade – C