‘Sam Bahadur’: Vicky Kaushal’s Stellar Performance Elevates a Film that Struggles to Impress

By Abhishek Srivastava

Story: ‘Sam Bahadur’ chronicles the life of Sam Manekshaw, the legendary Chief of Army Staff, who later ascended to the position of Field Marshal. The film explores the milestones of his illustrious career.

Review: ‘Sam Bahadur,’ despite narrating the tale of a legendary Indian Army personnel, carries a distinctive flavour that sets it apart from other films in its genre. The narrative unveils aspects previously unknown to the audience, shedding light on Sam Manekshaw’s close relationship with General Yahya Khan from Pakistan. The film also delves into the challenges he faced, including efforts to label him as anti-national by someone close, and showcasing his candid behaviour, such as playfully referring to Indira Gandhi as ‘Sweetie.’ Vicky Kaushal’s superlative performance brings the character to life, providing a portrayal that feels remarkably authentic. However, regardless of the film’s success on various fronts and its overall engaging quality, there is a certain lack of cohesion. While watching, one can’t shake the impression that several milestones from Sam Manekshaw’s illustrious career have been pieced together, resulting in a slightly underwhelming final outcome.

One glaring drawback of the film lies in its inability to generate heightened tension and intrigue. ‘Sam Bahadur’ presents several moments ripe for such dramatic intensity, but the screenplay falls short in effectively incorporating them. Another shortcoming surfaces in the film’s treatment of its female characters. Sanya Malhotra, in the role of Sam’s wife, makes only fleeting appearances, contributing little to the film’s plot. In portraying Indira Gandhi, known for her strong will and assertiveness, Fatima Sana Shaikh falls short of bringing this crucial element to the forefront.

The film, however, is not devoid of moments that significantly contribute to its overall charm. Sam’s interactions and shared moments with Gurkha soldiers, his comical exchanges with the grumpy South Indian cook, and the scenes featuring his encounters with Indira Gandhi-all add a unique flavor to the narrative. The film effectively captures the synergy between Sam and Indira Gandhi, showcasing their ability to understand and respect each other’s perspectives. The initial scenes depicting Sam’s sojourns in Mussoorie and Firozpur play a crucial role in shaping his character arc. They highlight the core essence of Sam as a no-nonsense, non-conformist soldier willing to go to any lengths to serve his country.

Undoubtedly, the standout element of the film is Vicky Kaushal’s performance. Kaushal once again takes on the challenge of embodying a real-life character for the screen, and this time too he comes out with flying colours. His impeccable mannerisms, flawless diction, and the authoritative aura he exudes are hallmarks of a truly capable actor, and Vicky checks all the boxes. Mohd Zeeshan Ayub, essaying the role of General Yahya Khan, and Govind Namdeo, portraying Sardar Patel, are other noteworthy characters in the film who effectively make their presence felt.

‘Sam Bahadur’ endeavours to encapsulate the chequered career of a decorated Army officer who epitomized bravery and nationalism, leaving an indelible mark in the annals of the Indian Army as a larger-than-life persona. However, the film only partially succeeds in capturing those moments, lacking a cohesive portrayal of the protagonist’s illustrious journey. Vicky Kaushal emerges as a saving grace for the film, delivering a performance that goes a long way in redeeming its shortcomings. Vicky Kaushal has delivered a commendable effort, but ‘Sam Bahadur’ falls short of being a cinematic experience to be savoured in its entirety, offering enjoyment only in fragmented segments. — Times of India