As one hears the sound of boots thumping on barren mountain troughs, an adrenaline-pumping chant takes over. Ears ring with the sound of ‘Durge Mata ki Jai’ and the heart feels like it’s going to pop out any moment. That’s how one knows the next 2 hours and 15 minutes of Vishnu Varadhan’s directorial ‘Shershaah’ are going to be a rollercoaster of emotions. 

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‘Shershaah’ opens up with a crossfire between the Indian Army and Pakistan-backed forces during the 1999 Kargil War. Captain Vikram Batra (Sidharth Malhotra) pulls out a grenade and runs head-on towards the enemy as it rains gunshots. The film then takes the viewers back in time and gives a glimpse of Vikram’s childhood and his longtime aspiration to one day join the army. The little Vikram would don the army uniform as a kid and attend every event, to the point that it became embarrassing for his twin brother. But as he says, “Ye Dil Mange More”, Vikram only knows going forward and ends up realising his childhood dream by finally getting commissioned as a lieutenant into the Indian Army. 

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A series of flashbacks in a way narrates his love story with his college sweetheart, Dimple Cheema. Despite the caste differences, the two do not lose faith in their relationship and wait for the day to be united for life.

‘Shershaah’ dives into the pivotal role Captain Vikram Batra played in India’s historic victory against Pakistan in Kashmir’s Drass Sector during one of the biggest mountain wars India has ever witnessed. Although the Kargil War led to Batra’s martyrdom, his stories of displaying unparalleled courage in various circumstances are immortalised. 

‘Shershaah’ is the Bollywood directorial debut of South filmmaker Vishnu Varadhan. While it does feel like an absolute war film, the authenticity of the narrative is maintained throughout. Real-life events make their way into the screenplay, giving viewers something realistic to relate to and experience catharsis as everything leads to victory in the end. 

From hurling abuses during the intense battle moments, Pakistani militant asking Batra to hand over Madhuri Dixit to the enemy learning his code name ‘Shershaah’ through a similar frequency radio, the film reflects the actual moments of the war as precisely as it could. 

However, the film forgets to throw light on Vikram Batra’s equation with his family. With a limited screen time given to his parents and siblings, one is unable to gauge what his life must have been like beyond his duties as an Armyman. His identical twin Vishal Batra narrates the story but is pushed to the periphery just like the soldier’s family. 

Sidharth Malhotra doesn’t disappoint like in the past and makes his screen presence known. The actor displays evolution in his acting skills and impresses throughout his commanding screen time when he’s clad in the Army uniform. However, the 36-year-old’s portrayal of a college boy fails to hit home. 

Kiara Advani, on the other hand, barely gets enough screen time to shine. The actor’s Punjabi accent comes and goes just like her character in the film. 

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The cinematography is taut with a mesmerising capture of the Kashmir valley while displaying the blood and tears on the battlefield with equal conviction. 

‘Shershaah’ celebrates a soldier’s life. The hero isn’t given to superficial bravado. He’s rather a simple man who knows what he wants and sets out to get it with an unwavering determination. A little more in where it lacked and ‘Shershaah’ could have been a perfect war drama Bollywood has ever produced.