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SARDAR KA GRANDSON : Let down by Execution

Sardar Ka Grandson Movie Review:

In the new Netflix film, Arjun Kapoor plays a one-man Samjhauta Express who shares a name with a Murthal dhaba. He is joined by Neena Gupta, who is wasted in more ways than one.

You have to hand it to John Abraham. A mere three years after starring in Parmanu, a worrisome film about warmongering, he has sent Arjun Kapoor to Pakistan as a one-man Samjhauta Express in Sardar Ka Grandson. Out on Netflix, the ‘feel-good’ drama, co-produced by John, has potential to damage an already fraught situation.

Arjun Kapoor plays Amreek, a man who runs a movers and packers business in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Radha, played by Rakul Preet Singh. Blinded by some sort of male entitlement, he lashes out at her one day after she points out legitimate flaws in his personality and work ethic. His ego bruised beyond repair, he flies down to his home town Amritsar, where he learns that his grandmother, played by Neena Gupta under three inches of prosthetics, is about to die.

Her last wish is to see her ancestral home in Lahore, and she asks Amreek to take her there. But when the Pakistani authorities deny her a visa, he comes up with the most harebrained scheme this side of Armageddon. Amreek, after watching a YouTube video, decides that his only option is to literally ‘go to Pakistan’ by himself, and somehow physically transport his grandmother’s old house across the border. Honestly, what else could you expect from a guy who shares a name with a Murthal dhaba and openly admits to eating pizzas with achaar?

Amreek’s diplomatic mission includes getting arrested almost immediately after entering Pakistan, consuming bootlegged alcohol, and bonding with locals over song-and-dance sequences. He does all this with Resting Arjun Face.

Unlike Neena, Arjun can’t even blame thick makeup for his dull performance. But in fairness to him, the script — co-written by director Kaashvie Nair, with Anuja Chauhan and Amitosh Nagpal — isn’t something that an actor can elevate.

Sardar Ka Grandson is the sort of movie in which virtually every character functions as a stereotype. So you have people named Pinky, Ponty, and Lovely, saying things like ‘fitte moo’ and calling each other ‘khota’. These people begin their day with a screaming match over some paranthas, and end it, invariably, with a post-dinner peg.

Meanwhile, in parallel to this hokey nonsense, a dramatically different John Abraham movie plays out in flashback. The action star appears as Amreek’s grandfather, who died in a violent clash during the Partition. Aditi Rao Hydari, appearing in her third Netflix release in about as many months, plays the younger version of Neena’s character.

Neither of them is comfortable with the clunky dialogue, which fluctuates between Punjabi and Hindi with little regard for authenticity. While Aditi pronounces the word for house as ‘kaar’, John, in the same scene, uses the Hindi ‘ghar’.

Every moment in Sardar Ka Grandson is accentuated with a heavy-handed background score, telling you exactly what to feel. Emotional strings accompany the flashback scenes, while the modern-day sequences are peppered with comic sound effects that go ‘bing’ and ‘bong’ whenever someone goofs up, which happens a lot. And when the score isn’t slapping you in the face with instructions on how to react, characters abruptly announce what they’re thinking, just to make sure you’re on the same page. Which, unless you’re three years old, you probably are.

Sardar Ka Grandson has its heart in the right place, but it all appears to be a bit disingenuous. As Amreek notes in yet another instance of the film spoon-feeding the audience, the people on either side of the border have no ill-will towards each other; it’s the bureaucrats in charge who are causing chaos. But that isn’t entirely true, is it? Especially coming from an industry that has made millions by demonising the other side.

Many Punjabi families, including my own, would relate to the core conflict that Sardar Ka Grandson is attempting to profit from. And so would the thousands of families that live in Old Delhi, several of whom have cousins on the other side. It’s a pity, then, that decades of pain have been reduced to this ridiculous mess of a movie that includes a scene in which Arjun pretends he’s Miley Cyrus for a minute.

Movie Rating 2.5 / 5

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