In a curfew induced Jammu and Kashmir, on one side, Cpt. Jamwal and Major Jasrotia are carefully checking the IDs of citizens moving across the street at a checkpoint. And on the other hand, is Cpt. Vikram Batra casually chewing on an apple, greeting everyone with “salaam” and a smile on his face. Such was his charisma that even in the most complicated and dire situation, he would shine as a ray of hope and encouragement. As one of his troop members once mentioned, “When we knew that Batra sir was leading the mission, we would be at peace”. Vishnu Vardhan’s Shershaah embodies this charm and heroism and creates a befitting tribute to Cpt. Batra and the 526 martyrs of the Kargil War.
One would describe Cpt. Batra’s story to be straight out of a Bollywood film filled with “masaledar seeti-maar” dialogues. Writer Sandeep Shrivastava does just that. He uses the first half to introduce us to Vikram (played by Sidharth Malhotra), a charming college student aspiring to be an army officer, crushing over the equally pretty Dimple Cheema (played by Kiara Advani). As time passes, his ambitions become clearer and we finally see him transition from Vikram to Lt. Vikram Batra. There are moments where one would expect a hardcore, enemy-bashing dialogue. However, Shrivastava seems to know where to draw the line which keeps audiences engaged with the action on screen. The same can be said for the cinematography and editing by Kamaljeet Negi and A. Sreekar Prasad respectively. A story that could easily have been marred by choppy shots and poor editing is treated meticulously so that the spirit of Cpt. Batra lives on in every scene.
Possibly one of the key highlights of the writing is how detailed it is when it comes to describing the army strategies used to capture points 5140 and 4875, a rare feature found in war-related films. It truly shows a glimpse of the strategising and restrategising that is required to make a mission a success while considering the collateral damage. While the usage of archival footage such as that of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rousing speech on the commencement of Operation Vijay acts as a setup for the penultimate sequence, it doesn’t delve deeper into the political environment, which may have had a more significant impact on audiences. Despite these minor flaws and predictable beat, Shershaah manages to get the audience engrossed in Cpt. Batra’s journey so much that when the final bullet hits, you can’t help but weep uncontrollably for the fallen hero.
Very rarely does a film implement music so intricately to carry forward the narrative. Tracks like “Raataan Lambiyaan” and “Ranjha” come in as a breath of fresh air as the tension rises throughout the running minutes. However, it is “Kabhi Tumhe” and “Mann Bhareya” sung by Darshan Raval and B Praak respectively which steal the show. A special shoutout to John Stewart Eduri (of Mirzapur fame) for providing the background score of the movie.
However, the biggest strength of Shershaah lies in its performances. The supporting cast including Shiv Panditt as Cpt. Sanjeev Jamwal, Nikitin Dheer as Major Ajay Jasrotia and Raj Arjun as Subedar Raghunath Singh provide a stoic presence on screen, a perfect contrast to Cpt. Batra’s jovial nature. Kiara Advani as Dimple is restrained, but manages to tug at our heart strings. Sidharth Malhotra as the titular character Cpt. Batra gives his all in this performance. He possess the boyish charm as well as the maturity required to portray such a character. While there are moments of his performance which will definitely make you smile, it is the penultimate sequence where he shines the most.
Perhaps the greatness in Shershaah lies in the fact that it is not an all-out war film, but rather a retelling of the story of an ordinary man who clinched on to his dream and lived it to the fullest.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.