Retro Review: The magic of Gadar—Ek Prem Katha is timeless

Sunny Deol as Tara Singh in Gadar—Ek Prem Katha. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

To review a time-tested classic can be rather superfluous. The reason is simple: the audience, the raison d’etre for any film to be made, has already passed its verdict and made it a humongous hit.

But as I was watching GadarEk Prem Katha again, I was observing and analyzing the film’s magic, and watching what had caused that massive connect with the audience for (not just then) 22 years now. In this case, the audience was the media fraternity, a lot of whom were not even born or were kids who had accompanied their parents then, and as assorted-age upper-crust audience who had paid for the tickets. The filmland celebs were in another auditorium and could be well expected to rave for their friends. But here, as in the new RRR screening, the applause, cheers and claps were coming all through in perfect sync for both the new and repeat audiences!

The main hero of the film, I assessed, was easily Shaktimaan’s shaktimaan (powerful) writing. It was a perfect mix of the timeless, the modern and the traditional. Jingoism and subtle patriotism were mixed in perfect proportion, as were the old-world concept of idealistic national integration and the modern approach of nationalism. The film, while not losing focus on the love story that was paramount and superseded religions, also depicted biased Sikhs in India and Muslims in Pakistan with a pathological hatred for India and, by default, for Sikhs and Hindus.

The film, after all, concentrated on the horrors of Partition, when Muslims butchered the other two communities and were also massacred in turn by them. It culminates in the 1950s, when Pakistan had yet to go to open war with India. In the most graphic realization of the evils of hatred, hero Tara Singh (Sunny Deol), admits to Ashraf Ali (Amrish Puri), the Pakistani politician, that human beings like him went berserk after the British split the nation, and beseeches him that they should now think like sane human beings. However, when his dignity and national pride is outraged, Tara becomes almost superhuman as an Indian.

Tara has met and interacted with Sakina (Ameesha Patel) when he supplied her boarding school’s canteen, and she has arranged for him to sing at their Annual Day. As riots break out in Amritsar post-Partition, and Ashraf and his family (Sakina is his daughter) are forced to flee to Lahore, now in Pakistan, Tara rescues her (when she is separated from her family at the station) from fellow Sikhs, who want to kill her. This is done by applying sindoor on her forehead and making her his wife, and thus a Sikh. When he shelters her in his home, his community rallies against him, but he faces it all.

Soon, he decides that he will take Sakina across the border, but she finally realizes the enormity of what she owes him and his secret love for a rich girl like her, and tells Tara that she will marry him. A son (Utkarsh Sharma) is soon born and a few years later, Sakina finds that her father is a successful politician in Pakistan, while she had, on the basis of reports, thought that her family had been killed. She contacts him and Ashraf fetches her by a private plane, deliberately not allowing a visa for her son and husband.

After almost 120 minutes, this is the gripping film’s intermission point!

In the second half, her family members try to force Sakina to forget her family in India and get married again and plunge into the family profession: politics. But she realizes the game and protests, yearning for her loving husband and child. Meanwhile, a furious Tara sets out to get her by entering Pakistan illegally with his son.

The rest of the film is like a high-octane action drama with one enraged Sikh superman pitted against the Pakistani cops and army, and generates most of the claps, whistles and applause-worthy moments, visuals and lines in the film. This part of the movie is almost like some super-man comic book and logic is given short shrift in favor of the action and the broader aspects of emotions and love for the country, besides the prem katha (love story).

Sunny Deol is magnificent as Tara Singh, his eyes speaking volumes, his action as he battles multiple antagonists believable with his fit physique and body language. Ameesha Patel is effective as Sakina, and once again, her expressive eyes mirror her feelings, whether they are about love for her father, Ashraf Ali, her benefactor and later husband Tara, or her son. Amrish Puri is a deadly antagonist to Tara, and his indulgent father act comes with perfect balance for an angry schemer and hater of all things Indian. The rest of the cast fits the bill, with special marks to Vivek Shauq as Tara’s inseparable friend, Darmiyaan, and Utkarsh Sharma as his son.

The music is good, but Anand Bakshi’s milestone lyrics extol it to a magical calibre—Musafir jaanewale heads the list, while Main nikla gaddi lekar and Udd jaa kaale kaawa are the other high-points. The background music (also by Uttam Singh) is effectively in mood.

Cinematographer Najeeb Khan, action director Tinu Verma and editors Keshav Naidu and Arun-Shekhar each do fabulous work and Anil Sharma’s direction will remain a milestone in his career: the way he has handles the action, the horrors of the Partition, and the detailing are something to be emulated by directors of any period film. Sanjay Dabhade’s art direction is fabulously detailed.

As I said, classics are classics, and they happen when everything falls in the right place. They cannot be designed, and so, I sincerely pray that Gadar 2 matches the brilliance of this epic.

Rating: *****

Zee Telefilms’ Gadar—Ek Prem Katha  Producer: Nittin Keni  Directed by: Anil Sharma Written by: Shaktimaan  Music: Uttam Singh  Starring: Sunny Deol, Ameesha Patel, Amrish Puri, Vivek Shauq, Utkarsh Sharma, Pratima Kazmi, Suresh Oberoi, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Mushtaque Khan, Lillette Dubey, Madhu Malti, Pramod Moutho, Kanika Shivpuri, Rakesh Bedi, Ehsaan Khan, Mithilesh Chaturvedi, Ishrat Ali & others



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