Sam Manekshaw, also known as Sam Bahadur, experienced significant shifts in history during his lifetime. He was born in a time when India was under British rule and served in the military to defend British-Indian interests against Japan during World War II. When India and Pakistan separated in 1947, he was reassigned to a new unit since his previous regiment became part of Pakistan’s armed forces. Later on, he played a prominent role in the Indo-Pakistani war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. In 1973, upon his retirement, he became the first Indian army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.
The historical framework has the potential to serve as a foundation for examining how an individual’s values and politics evolve over time, similar to the character Colonel Blimp. However, the creators of this biopic take a different approach. Likely influenced by the current wave of nationalist sentiment in India and with input from Manekshaw’s family, director Meghna Gulzar presents a more direct attitude. Manekshaw is depicted as a hero, consistently displaying correctness, nobility, wit, and forgiveness. Whether he is standing up to politicians, competing in a boxing match, or winning over his future wife, he can do no wrong. The actor Vicky Kaushal is well-suited for the role and brings charm to his portrayal.
The movie is most enjoyable when portraying entertaining stories from Manekshaw’s life. After being shot in the chest with a machine gun, it seems impossible for him to survive. However, when a doctor asks about his injury, Manekshaw jokes that he was actually kicked by a mule. The doctor is impressed by his sense of humor and makes it his mission to save him at any cost.
The flaw in this method is that it causes the film to struggle with its overall plot structure. While individual scenes and events are well-executed, the overall structure feels disjointed. This is a common issue with biographical films, as it is difficult to create a sense of urgency and progression when the story is based on real events. This results in the film feeling like a mere showcase of different events, supporting the belief that history is just a series of random occurrences.