Arrested in 1990 by border guards, Sarabjit Singh was imprisoned, based on the accusation of being an Indian spy involved in bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad. Dilraj Kaur, his sister, fought tirelessly for his innocence and release, but Singh was unfortunate for being convicted on death row until he was killed by prison inmates in 2013.
On paper, for a screenplay, Sarbjit has all seeds of being a solid political thriller, but loses steam within minutes after the film had begun. Was it the screenplay that was a letdown, or the performances which on many occasions clearly showed signs of tiresome overacting or sloppy editing, the film clearly lacks direction bouncing off here and there multiple times throughout the course of its runtime.
Omung Kumar, known for his hard-hitting biographical drama film Mary Kom based on the real life boxer, although divided in opinion whether it was a good take on the revered boxer's life, still remains a favorite film many fans. The director who started his career as a production designer for many TV shows, serials and shows and his association with acclaimed director Sanjay Leela Bhansali seems to have helped Omung very little in implementing the experience he has gained over the years into this film.
It is understandable to vent out or feel frustrated for the poor execution of a film that had all the potential to stand out and raise serious questions on the Indian judicial system, cross-border terrorism, mistaken identities, political agendas and much more. Sarbjit is quite easily a tough film to make and even more a tough nut to crack and if Omung were to lauded, if would be for the reason that he has made an attempt to give the subject a try. However, that’s the only good thing you can pretty much say about the director’s contribution and/or treatment towards what could have been a political ripper.
On the performance front, the most experienced actor in the film, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Dalbir Kaur has moments in the film, but that’s about it. Throughout the film, it falls on us that the actress is lost on trying to be genuine in her efforts to be convincing as a sister grieving for her brother, but it just doesn’t sell. Apart from the one scene before the interval where Aishwarya Rai stuns with her speech at the Red Fort, she’s flat and pale throughout the course of the entire film.
Randeep Hooda, as hard as he has tried to make us sympathize comes close to convincing us, but still falls short on some levels. Perhaps the standout in the film, Richa Chadda as Randeep Hooda’s wife Sukhpreet delivers a hard-hitting and consistent performance. Songs in Sarbjit although unnecessary for the film’s narrative does relax us a bit.
In short, Sarbjit has all elements for a solid political thriller, but squanders it for melodrama.