This film is loud, very loud in fact, and for this reason, it won’t appeal to all types of audiences. People supporting the Chopra-Johar-Barjatya trio; please stay far from The Legend of Bhagat Singh, as this film for sure won’t be your cup of tea. Ditto for people favouring the usual commercial stuff with song and dance sequences. The Legend of Bhagat Singh is targeted for people who like to see history on 70mm. It is for those of you who want to know who Bhagat Singh was and eager to see Ajay Devgan adding another feather to his cap as a talented thespian. It’s no masterpiece, but a good film.
The movie tells the tale of freedom fighter cum revolutionist Bhagat Singh (Ajay Devgan). Having witnessed, since his childhood, the atrocities and tortures inflicted to the Indians by the Brits, Bhagat Singh decides to rebel and later joins the gang of Pandit-Ji alias Chandrashekar Azad (Akilendra Mishra). Thereafter, he becomes the leading force of the group along with his sidekicks Sukhdev (Sushant Singh) and Rajguru (D. Santosh). One day he gets arrested for throwing bombs in the Assembly. In jail he goes on a hunger strike because of the inadequate conditions offered to the prisoners. How Bhagat Singh succeeds in getting justice for the prisoners and how he is executed along with his two friends are lastly narrated in the movie.
The screenplay doesn’t try to be good, but tries to remain true to Bhagat Singh’s story and strangely, Raj Kumar Santoshi has done just a mixed job with it. It’s not all that bad but when paralleled with his previous films, which most had strong screenplays, this one is much of a let down. He is to be blamed as he overlooked some important aspects like for not explaining why Bhagat Singh was an atheist. Probably his desire and obsession to release the film before 23rd March 1931 Shaheed made him overlook these crucial points or maybe he felt that they weren’t of great importance to the story. But really, they are.
A few of these scenes are bound to have some serious repercussions on the movie. Following the same thread as Hey Ram, it gives an unconditional and untrue perception of Gandhi’s actions. From the film, it seems as if Gandhi was doing the wrong thing by preaching non-violence. Indirectly, Gandhi is held responsible for Bhagat Singh’s death, something, which can arouse controversies. Santoshi fails in the sense that he lacks some fairness. He should have known that if a film were to be made on Gandhi, Bhagat Singh would have been regarded as a villain, not as a national hero.
On the whole Santoshi has done a fairly good job with the direction but there are places where he shows his limitations on making a good period film. It’s not that he doesn’t have the talent but rather that he seems lost within the movie, all this because of the poor script. He even fails to draw the sympathy of the audience towards Bhagat Singh at some essential points, but not all, this being a sore point for the movie. Numerous scenes are underdeveloped as to why Bhagat Singh and his friends refuse to get handcuffed. However, the emotion he extracts from the ensemble of his cast is commendable. Much like Lagaan, he makes every single character stand out by their mannerisms, dialogues or looks. The scene where the jailer is trying to feed the revolutionists by pipes will leave the audience in awe.
Technically, the film is a mixed fare. Cinematography isn’t what can be called exquisite and original. The action is taking place in the 1920s and the camera ought to have adjusted itself with this time but instead we have the cinematography of this new millennium with different angles nicely shown. This is the biggest drawback of periodic films nowadays; they all fail to give an ideal look to the atmosphere. Nitin Desai’s sets, with a Lagaan hangover, are beautiful but partly ruined by the number of persons present on them. Allan Amin’s action is well done most particularly the whipping scenes. The background music is made up of several tracks and does manage in adding spice to the scenes.
A.R. Rahman’s music is nice and very patriotic. Lyrics by Sameer are well done (a rarity to see “well done” and Sameer in the same phrase) but more importantly they complement the movie very well. The tracks don’t hinder the process but gets along with the movie. However, the song “Mera Rang De” should be shortened (not cut) as it dilutes the deserved impact of the climax. The dialogue “they can beat our bodies, not our cause” is proved in the song “Desh Mere”, which is very well sung by Sukhwinder Singh.
Ajay Devgan has another winning performance as an “angry young man”. He can easily disqualify it as his best role but nonetheless it’s one that ranks along his bests. He rises above the poor script and if the movie is worth watching it’s mainly because of him. He carries the movie on his shoulders and doesn’t go overboard in any of his scenes. The biggest asset of Ajay Devgan as an actor is that he can excel despite the limited characterization of his role. Here he has only to rebel but he does it in such a way that he leaves a mark. His uneasiness to convey his feelings to his bride-to-be is fully justified by his facial expressions.
Every one of the supporting cast members makes his presence felt. From Akhilendra Mishra to Farida Jalal, they are all good. Amrita Rao in her second film is also nice.
The best thing about The Legend of Bhagat Singh is that it is made in a way, which allows the viewer to draw comparisons, something that is inevitable. However, the comparisons are not with this film and the four others being released on the same legend, but the comparison between the legend and the heroes that we all may know. It strikes the right emotions at the right times. For this purpose, those who see the movie will automatically connect the life of Bhagat Singh with a living personality. When Eminem expresses his anger towards society via his songs or when Senegal’s player Elhadji Diouf rebels on a football ground, it’s easy to see a Bhagat Singh in disguise. As a matter of fact, all three of them had a troubled childhood. The bottom line of this movie is simple: - There’s a Bhagat Singh in every one of us, only that circumstances makes us one or prevent us from becoming one. This is what Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Legend of Bhagat Singh tells us, but unfortunately, the film is not up to the marks we all hoped for. Pity that none of the recent films on the legend were either.