Shershaah (2021): When “The Lion” Roared…

Director Vishnu Varadhan takes us back to the legend of a heroic Indian Army officer, the late Captain Vikram Batra, through a biographical action drama titled “Shershaah” which is translated as “Lion King”. Written by Sandeep Shrivastava and co-produced by Karan Johar, Shershaah follows the life of the daredevil warrior and his contributions towards India’s victory in the Kargil War of 1999 against Pakistan. The Kargil War against Pakistan was the most difficult mountain warfare operations in the Indian military history where many brave Indian soldiers like Vikram Batra lost their lives. Following his death during the war, he was awarded India’s highest military honor, the Param Vir Charkra, for his military leadership, bravery and supreme sacrifice. Shershaah stars Sidharth Malhotra as Captain Vikram Batra. The film was released on August 12, 2021 on the big screens.

The Delta Company also known as the Delta Force or Indian Armed Forces, guards India’s borders from foreign intruders. The story revolves around Captain Vikram Batra and the Delta Company’s invincible infantry regiment, the 13th battalion, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles which is also known as 13th JAK RIF. The film’s opening shows Captain Vikram Batra’s twin brother, Vishal Batra (also played by Sidharth Malhotra) who narrates the story of his brave warrior brother.

Vikram Batra used to be a fearless young man and was always ready to pick up a fight. He was very much inspired by an Indian television program titled “Param Vir Chakra” which in fact provoked him to join the Indian Army. His first deployment was as a lieutenant with the 13th JAK RIF. There he took part in counter-insurgency operations. During one such operation, he saved his co-lieutenant Sanjeev Jamwal’s (Shiv Pandit) life.

Sidharth Malhotra as Captain Vikram Batra in Shershaah

India’s arch-rival nation Pakistan, which was then led by General Pervez Musharraf, had the dark motive to capture the state of Kashmir from India. One day while on its guard, The Delta Company tracked an insurgent group of henchmen from Pakistan. The Pakistani henchmen’s leader Haider (Mir Sarwar) ambushed the Delta Company and many Indian soldiers were killed in the attack. Batra’s friend, soldier Bansi Lal Sharma (Anil Charanjeet) was also killed during the incident. Batra was traumatized and sought vengeance. He took lead, tracked down Haider and killed him. Following this, Batra decided to go on a leave.

However unknown to Batra and the Indian armed forces, Musharraf had already begun his offensive move to capture Kashmir. He had violated all international agreements and peace treaties and sent his troops to invade the Kargil territory of Kashmir. The Pakistani intruders entered India and positioned themselves high up on the mountains of Kargil. The news of a possible war began circulating and Batra decided to cut short his vacation and return to join the forces.

The Pakistanis had already begun their attacks through artillery firing from the mountains. Several other Delta Company’s regiments like the 2nd Rajputana Rifles, also known as 2nd RAJ RIF, became victims to such sudden attacks. This resulted in severe causalities and one of them was Batra’s senior officer, Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia (Nikitin Dheer).

Now, the 13th JAK RIF resumed active-duty under the leadership of Sanjeev Jamwal and Batra. They relieved the 2nd RAJ RIF from the attacks and also captured the area designated as Point 5140 at 17,000 feet in the Kargil mountains by killing all the Pakistanis who were positioned there. For this impressive victory, Batra was nominated for the Maha Vir Chakra award and promoted to the rank of Captain of the 13th JAK RIF.

The 13th JAK RIF, led by Batra, continued their operations and moved forward to release more territories from Pakistan’s clutches. They were scheduled to capture a vital region which Pakistan had intruded, designated as Point 4875, which overlooked the National Highway 1. The capture of Point 4875 in the Kargil mountains would end the war as it was the last territory which remained under Pakistan’s intrusion.

Soldiers of the Delta Company’s 13th battalion, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles as shown in Shershaah

The JAK RIF began their assault on the Pakistanis but things didn’t go so well. They suffered a lot of causalities due to the rough, rocky and steep terrains and multiple enemy bunkers in that region. There were five enemy bunkers at Point 4875 out of which four were captured by the JAK RIF. However, more enemies were secretly hidden in a fifth bunker which was camouflaged from their view.

Now, the Pakistanis open fired on the JAK RIF from the fifth bunker. Batra ordered his rifleman Yashpal (Pranay Singh Pachauri) to invade the bunker. Yashpal came face to face with the enemy. He was just about the fire when the enemy’s bullet hit him before he could pull the trigger. It was then Batra ran across the open ground to rescue the injured Yashpal. In the process, the enemy’s bullet hit him multiple times as he was in a clear range of their shooting.

The severely wounded Batra collapses and before he succumbed to his injuries, he lay on the ground and watched his assistant officer Raghunath Singh (Raj Arjun) take command of the JAK RIF. The platoon of the JAK RIF attacked the fifth bunker and destroyed the enemy once and for all. Batra watched the Indian Flag being hoisted by the JAK RIF as a sign of the victory of India against Pakistan in the war before he breathed his last. India regains the possession of the Kargil territory.

Shiv Pandit (left)and Sidharth Malhotra (right) in a scene from Shershaah

Shershaah (2021) Trailer:

The Good:

A true thrilling action drama!

Shershaah’s plot has nothing fictional. This is a true story and all incidents shown are what actually happened during the Kargil War of 1999. Honestly, I must say the audience will experience an immense thrill in viewing the military actions and the mountain warfare in this movie.

I find the screenplay by Shrisvastava to be absorbing in most parts. In short, this movie is a feast for action lovers. It has gun action as well as intense fight scenes. The war sequences have been executed to perfection and I must tell you that viewing such an intense warfare where Indian soldiers were countering the enemy by climbing the mountains was a true thrilling experience for me. Not just me, even Sidharth Malhotra himself revealed in an interview that Shershaah’s shooting in the rocky mountain terrains of Kashmir was a thrilling experience for him as well as for the rest of the cast.

If you wonder, what led this movie to be named as “Shershaah” then let me tell you that Batra was designated as a “Lion” by his fellow soldiers on account of his bravery.  Also, Batra’s codename during the warfare was “Shershaah”. You will be amazed to learn that it was not just the Indian soldiers who regarded Batra to be a lion. A scene in the movie shows even the Pakistanis warning Batra from the top of the mountains by intercepting his military radio communication, “Oh Shershaah, you have come this far! But do not dare to come further up!” No doubt, Batra’s bravery did match up with that of a lion’s and he has been designated the title of the bravest man in India.

The emotional essence

Kiara Advani played the role of Captain Vikram Batra’s girlfriend Dimple Cheema in Shershaah

Not just warfare, but Shershaah is also the story of Batra’s personal and love life. Batra had promised his girlfriend Dimple Cheema (Kiara Advani) that he will return after defeating Pakistan. But that never happened and Batra died during the war. This did create an emotional atmosphere at the end which is sure to leave you moist-eyed.

A scene in Shershaah shows Vikram Batra and Dimple getting married unofficially. In fact, Dimple was Batra’s girlfriend. Though they never married officially, she chose to remain unmarried throughout her life and call herself his widow.

Sidharth and Kiara’s sizzling on-screen chemistry

Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani shared a sizzling on-screen chemistry in Shershaah. Kiara Advani carried out her short and significant role of Batra’s girlfriend pretty well. There were scenes of intimacy too.

The movie did show that Dimple had a major impact on Batra’s life, as at one point he had decided to quit the Indian Army for her sake. Dimple’s father was not willing to get her married to Batra as they belonged to different castes. It was in fact Batra’s best friend Sunny (Sahil Vaid) who had convinced him to continue with the Indian Army.

Honestly, by his looks Sidharth Malhotra has no resemblance with the real Captain Batra. However, he did carry out the role precisely and the impact he created with his performance, action sequences and dialogue delivery in Shershaah truly deserves an applause.

The portrayal of human bond

Shershaah does depict the sense of brotherhood, love and sacrifice that an Indian soldier can have for his co-soldier. Batra is shown saving the lives of many of his co-soldiers, whether it be on a regular military operation or during the actual war. In fact, he died while saving his rifleman Yashpal from the Pakistanis.

The cinematography

This impactful plot was boosted up by the precise and immaculate camerawork of cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi who effectively captured the essence of the war throughout the movie. However, I found the editing to be a bit sloppy at some places as Shershaah was too bundled up with the personal life of Batra at various points during its runtime. I believe this may to some extent divert the audience from the action and thrill in the movie.

Epic Dialogues!

Shershaah does have some epic dialogues which are worth remembering. The dialogues in the film were not cooked up by its makers. Captain Vikram Batra was well known for his witty one-liners and the dialogues in the movie were Batra’s original dialogues.

Pranay Singh Pachauri (left) played the role of rifleman Yashpal Sharma in Shershaah; Right: the real rifleman Yashpal Sharma of the 13th JAK RIF

One of the famous dialogues in Shershaah is when Batra promised his best friend Sunny before going for the war that, “I’ll either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it. But I’ll come for sure.”

There is another epic dialogue which Batra gave to the Pakistanis during the war. You may be familiar with Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit who has a worldwide fan following. Batra became even more famous as he “refused” to give Madhuri Dixit to the Pakistanis. This was a bit amusing to watch but it really happened!

During his confrontation with the enemy, a Pakistani soldier from a bunker shouted at him, “We are going to beat you, throw you back and take away Madhuri Dixit from you”. This enraged Batra and he attacked the enemy with full force. He shot the soldier and destroyed the bunker with a hand-grenade. Following this, he stood and smiled at the dead Pakistani soldier’s body and said, “From Madhuri, with love”.

Melodious songs

Some of the songs in Shershaah are indeed heart-touching and melodious. Majority of the tracks in Shershaah were love songs rather than patriotic. I don’t really enjoy the songs they make in Bollywood nowadays as I happen to be a retro guy and enjoy songs from the 80s and 90s era Bollywood.

However, the mesmerizing voice of Jubin Nautiyal in the track “Raataan Lambiyan” meaning “Long Nights” had me listening to it again and again. Also, the track “Jai Hind Ki Sena” meaning “Hail the Indian Army” of Vikram Montrose is impactful enough to fill the average Indian man’s heart with patriotism.

The Bad:

Banned in Pakistan!

This really doesn’t surprise me. After all, Shershaah is an anti-Pakistan movie made by Indian filmmakers. It is solely meant for the Indian audience and the rest of the world to enjoy, except Pakistan.

However, I feel that the film didn’t show anything unusual. Pakistan did attack India with a dark motive to capture Kashmir and India only retaliated to counter the enemy and protect its territories. Every incident shown in Shershaah is cent percent true. The plot hasn’t been exaggerated even a bit. I guess, maybe Pakistan doesn’t want to accept the reality as well as its wrongful act.

The ending scene showing Captain Batra’s death during the war

The Verdict:

I must say, Sidharth Malhotra’s performance in Shershaah was brilliant. Even if by his looks he didn’t resemble Captain Batra but still his actions, dialogue delivery and body language made him appear as a real military officer. Reports reveal that Sidharth trained hard to get in the shoes of Captain Batra. Apart from Vikram Batra, Sidharth also played the role of his twin brother Vishal Batra who narrates the incident. I believe, this double casting of Sidharth in Shershaah was done because both the twin brothers had to look similar. Besides Sidharth’s performance, I must give my credits to Shiv Pandit as well for his meritorious acting.

The real Captain Vikram Batra based on whose life and military contributions Shershaah was made

The major part of Shershaah was shot in the Ladakh territory of Kashmir in India. The filming location, rocky mountain terrains and the actors in their military uniforms spiced up the entire viewing experience. At times, I thought I was viewing a real warfare and completely forgot that I was in fact watching a movie!

I must say Captain Vikram Batra’s life and military contributions are worthy enough to be converted into such an intense action movie. Shershaah is not the first time that Bollywood has presented the story of this lionhearted hero. There is a Bollywood movie named “LOC: Kargil” released in 2003 in which Captain Batra’s life and endeavors were shown in the Kargil War along with the contributions of other unsung war heroes. In that movie Abhishek Bacchan had played the role of Captain Batra.

Not only Bollywood, but every patriotic Indian citizen will remember this braveheart warrior. Captain Vikram Batra did truly prove what The Lion King Simba had said, “I laugh in the face of danger”.

 

 

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Overall
9/10
9/10
  • Acting - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Watchability - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
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About Subhadeep Ganguli

Meta film critic. Posting on behalf of Nirmal Word Services, content service agency in India.

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