Great movies enthral you. Bad movies kill you. Then there are those average movies to which you respond with, “Um, okay.” Sardar Ka Grandson is that average movie. It has an okay-ish house-shifting story that required more zeal for us to care for it. When I say “house shifting,” I mean relocating the entire structure from one location to another (here, from Lahore to Amritsar). It’s far from fiction as there are many real videos online detailing this procedure. Sardar Ka Grandson aims for an unusual objective but misses the mark by falling into the pit of insipid conventionality.
For starters, the whole affair is lifted on the platform of predictable outcomes. You don’t, even for a second, doubt where this journey will eventually come to a halt. When you are introduced to a clumsy Amreek (Arjun Kapoor), who doesn’t care for anyone’s personal sentiments, you know that the film would turn all Wake Up Amreek! as it will change him from a careless bloke to a mature gentleman. With his girlfriend Radha (Rakul Preet Singh), he runs a moving service in Los Angeles called Gently Gently. Yes, he is given the name Amreek so that it would rhyme with America (or Amreeka). Yes, his business is named Gently Gently so that a joke can be made rhyming with “mentally.” Perhaps, that is why Sardar (Neena Gupta) dropped him from the dining table during his childhood. Yes, the event was engineered for gags.
Sardar is a colourful character. She drinks, she scolds, she teases, and she loves putting names in her will. She suffers from a tumour, which dangles like a sword on her head. As a last wish, she wants to visit Lahore to take a look at her ancestral home. Easier said than done. Sardar is blacklisted from entering Lahore, thanks to a heat-of-the-moment action with a Pakistani VIP. Now, who will fulfil her last wish? Of course, her grandson Amreek. Did you not read the title?
Yes, the title. It’s a little strange, don’t you think? It puts the spotlight on the grandson when the events are fuelled by the desires of Sardar. This is her story, and the film should have focused more on her. Sardar Ka Grandson shines whenever it concerns itself with Sardar. Her flashbacks, her chain of thoughts and her presence energise the film. Neena Gupta steals every bit of your attention as if challenging you to turn away from her. But in turning its lens towards Amreek, Sardar Ka Grandson becomes more about his transformation. Sardar’s dream becomes a catalyst for Amreek’s coming-of-age arc. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we were invested in Amreek. Sadly, we are not. Blame it on Arjun Kapoor and his just-good-enough performance. He is not terrible, but the role demands an actor who can convey the madness behind taking up such a crazy task. Kapoor doesn’t bring out the internal idiosyncrasies of his character and gives an external performance. To show his wild dedication, he leaps onto the big ball attached to the demolition machine like Tarzan. It’s supposed to prove his craziness, but we feel as if we’re watching a circus where the clown engages in funny antics to entertain the onlookers.
Sardar Ka Grandson finds an easy-to-hate villain in Kumud Mishra. The actor walks on a tightrope between camp and self-seriousness. A last-minute development involving him finding a dog in a video is “screenwriting magic of impediment,” where obstacles are generated when imagination leaves the premises. It also explains the hurdles caused by the wires. I mean, how can you not consider those hanging wires while planning your movement beforehand? It’s somewhat irritating, but Sardar Ka Grandson wins you over a little by sweetly displaying the teamwork. You wish if only the film had done more to earn and rouse this moment. The kindness of strangers is always a heartwarming thing to witness. So why not try developing it? There is a scene where the people complain about the noise caused due to the house lifting process. What happened to that? The film never shows how the neighbours cope with it or resolve it. That resolution is muted, and I think I know why. Sardar Ka Grandson prioritises heart over the practicality of the situation. It asks you to buy that the people in the area have an immense amount of compassion, and that they can sacrifice personal comfort in favour of someone else’s dream fulfilment.
The film actually falls flat in this, as it tries too hard to appeal to your sentiments. Consider the scene where a younger Sardar (Aditi Rao Hydari) and Amreek cross the border and turn back to look in such a manner as to create an illusion that they see each other. Or the scene where Amreek “watches” a younger Sardar inside the Lahore house. It’s in these scenes that the film gets extra mushy and spoils the emotions. All it had to do was follow the logic of its situation, and the softness would have landed the way it had wanted. That is, by just showing Amreek and the younger Sardar crossing the border (without that turning back moment) and the sight of Amreek surveying the Lahore home (sans the “meeting” of two generations) would have been sufficient. When Amreek dances at a wedding in Lahore, the film ticks off an unnecessary box. Oh, before I forget. There is a Game Of CEO subplot with the family business that leads to…nowhere. You can axe the entire thing without any drastic consequences. You could argue that it renders shades of grey to Amreek as he says he is doing the deed to gain the CEO position. But Sardar Ka Grandson drops this trait, rejecting human behaviour in favour of unadulterated and uninteresting characteristics. It does not have the power to carry the weight of an uncommon narrative structure.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.