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 CAST: Randeep Hooda, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Richa Chadda, Darshan Kumar

DIRECTION: Omung Kumar

GENRE: Biopic

DURATION: 2 hours 11 minutes

Sarbjit movie review: Randeep Hooda nails the look and the accent, letting neither overpower him, and is the only reason to sit through this sagging saga.

based on real life of Sarbjit Singh, an Indian resident of the Bhikhiwind village at the Indo-Pak border, was convicted as a terrorist by Pakistan's Supreme Court in 1991. After 22 years on death row, he was attacked by fellow inmates in jail and died in a Lahore hospital six days later.

There is heft in the story. The horror of a human forced to suffer physical and mental torture, and used as a political pawn between India and Pakistan and their see-sawing relations, is wrenching. The family is caught in a terrible cleft, neither able to forget, nor properly mourn. But the treatment is cloying and sentimental, and manipulates you into weeping without actually feeling.

 Applause is due for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who plays the struggling Dalbir. But, in the same breath, the 42-year-old actor doesn’t manage to bring alive the character. Her lip-twisting, chest-thumping and shouting does not help either. Instead, the melodrama alienates us from an otherwise evocative character.

handeep Hooda brings Sarbjit to life with utter sweetness eversmiling, no bitterness mars Sarbjit’s face. As in 12 Years A Slave, the hope to live and love keeps Sarbj it going, his nails and teeth growing black as he gets an annual bar of soap, oherishing a fragment of moonlight, excitedly washing his rags before his family visits after 18 years of his imprisonment. Whether he's eating a sweet, stroking a cat or answering, ”Ilzam?" with a bewildered "Pata nahin", Randeep imbues Sarbj it with beautiful, powerful humanity. 

And of course there is the superfluous `giddha-shiddha’ : when will Bollywood make a film on Punjabi characters minus this cliché ? Richa Chaddha hovers mostly in the background, with only one or two scenes which she owns. One noble Pakistani shows up, in the shape of a lawyer ( Darshan), who believes that Sarbjit is innocent. The rest is taken over by Ms Rai, straining every sinew, delivering loud lectures to both Indians and Pakistanis, and, heaven help us, Talibanis.

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