Swantantrya Veer Savarkar is too long, dry and uninvolving

Randeep Hooda plays the freedom fighter, Swatantrya Veer Savarkar in the film of that name. Photo: Parull Gossain

When you wish to tribute an iconic giant through film, you must first understand that the most important point is that the effort should not go waste and the maximum number of people should watch the film that throws light on and therefore reveals so much about him. It is axiomatic, therefore, that the film works with the audience on a big scale so that the mission to highlight a person and his achievements and contemporary relevance become known to as many as possible, including his detractors.

This is the main area where Swatantrya Veer Savarkar falls short. The saga, right from the beginning of its marathon run of 178 minutes, is overwhelmingly dry, dark, drab and dreary. The narration runs into too much of material, including a lot that is not directly relevant, such as how multiple souls across the nation are sentenced to death and hung, and chant “Vande Mataram” as their last words.

The research seems decent, though it is a tad difficult to accept that Bose was inspired by Savarkar to wage war against the imperial powers that ruled us. There are some other seeming liberties taken as well. Also, though Savarkar was incarcerated for excessively long in the Andaman & Nicobar Cellular Jail (kala pani), an undue amount of footage, often repetitious, is given to that phase.

At frequent intervals, recourse is taken to inform us via captions about important happenings, locations and years, but all these are in English only, and clearly, this can further alienate a good section of our audience. In other words, the producers, writer and director Randeep Hooda are barely respecting the very people for whom the film has been made by them!

Not that the film lacks good points. There is a missionary zeal to the way Indian freedom fighters, irrespective of religion, are shown rousingly chanting “Vande Mataram”, a chant that has been despicably given a communal color by many nowadays. Savarkar is also shown elaborating on what he means by “Hindutva”, which again is a much-misunderstood and much-abused term now.

As someone from the Savarkar family is also a part of the research, we get to know many small things that we never did about this fierce patriot and his family, like how his father had been one of the victims of the great epidemic of plague that had struck the country, or how his elder brother (played here excellently by Amit Sial) was his right hand in the fight for Independence, and was also in kala pani when Savarkar was sent. I also did not know the shocking fact that Savarkar was suspected of being a conspirator in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, with whose ideology Savarkar had many issues.

On the performance side, Randeep Hooda is superb as the protagonist. His prosthetic make-up and gradual aging are all excellently depicted and become great tools to boost his astute performance that includes nuances like eye expressions, smiles and gait. Amit Sial is another powerful performer whose eyes speak volumes.

The supporting cast is adequate, though I would have preferred a more suitable actor than Rajesh Khera to portray Gandhi. I also found Santosh Ojha as Lokmanya Tilak a tad over-the-top in his acting, and Lokesh Mittal as Dr. Ambedkar too ordinary for a leader of his stature. Ankita Lokhande as Vinayak’s wife gets no scope. But the Muslim jailer at Andaman (I do not know the actor’s name) and Russell Geoffrey Banks as the tyrannical British officer there are made to ham.

Randeep Hooda makes a debut as writer and director that could have been leagues better-conceived and executed. He crams in too many incidents, much in the fashion of Sam Bahadur, and we again get an episodic feel through the narrative, which again shows us that perhaps every biopic cannot be expertly imagined and presented, especially in today’s times when a filmmaker and his audience are often at odds with each other in what they need!

The background score (Mathias Duplessy with Sandesh Shandilya) is brilliant though, but there is nothing to say about the songs, which are functional. The cinematography is needlessly dark, and perhaps Randeep was unduly influenced by the similar tones in his 2016 biopic, Sarbjit, in which he had acted and which was also co-produced by this movie’s co-producer Sandeep Singh. Just like that film, this one will also not find takers after the initial enthusiasm by followers of Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was much better documented in Ved Rahi’s Veer Savarkar in 2001. Now that was an authentic drama whose release was politically scuttled and thus limited to being shown only in Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir! Perhaps the viewer can catch up with it today on YouTube. 

Legend Studios, Randeep Hooda Films, Avak Films & Anand Pandit Motion Pictures present Swatantrya Veer Savarkar  Produced by: Randeep Hooda, Sam Khan, Anand Pandit, Yogesh Rahar & Sandeep Singh  Directed by: Randeep Hooda  Written by: Randeep Hooda, Utkarsh Naithani  Music: Anu Malik, Vipin Patwa & Sambata  Starring: Randeep Hooda, Ankita Lokhande, Amit Sial, Russell Geoffrey Banks, Rajesh Khera, Anjali Hooda, Mrinal Dutt, Jay Nano Patel, Chirag Pandya, Nitesh Thakur, Shivam Singh, Ashwin Dhar, Santosh Ojha, Balkrishna Mishra, Rajesh Jhaveri, Sanjay Sharma, Ashwin Dhar, Vikas Prasad,        Lokesh Mittal, James Murphy & others






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