Baweja’s storytelling is, at best, gripping in parts, and has a few good visuals, but is full of awkward attempts to tell a linear story.
Voices of: Om Puri
Director: Harry Baweja
There are many heroic tales of martyrdom that need to be told. Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur is one such story of a Punjabi warrior Banda Singh Bahadur, who finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change. Inspired by true events, this is a real hero who earned his remembrance in time and history. This 18th century ascetic-turned-warrior was also instrumental in removing the zamindari system in Punjab, and even gave away his lands to needy farmers. Legendary accounts of his fair deals and valour abound, and out of 11 wars that he fought, the one that chronicled for posterity is the one where he killed governor Wazir Khan, the ruler of Sirhind, and defeated his army of 15,000 men in the Battle of Chappar Chiri, remains most memorable.
An extraordinary tale of heroism unfolds on a grand scale, fast-paced animated adaptation that is both empowering and inspiring in its call for social justice and equality. Banda Singh Bahadur, who was born on 1670, remains an unsung hero but director Harry Baweja lends the film a valuable lesson in history by focusing on his awe-inspiring courage and loyalty towards Guru Gobind Singh. The film also shows his shortcomings and creates plenty of emotional momentum. The film marks the meeting between disciple Madho Das (Banda Singh Bahadur) and Guru Govind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra, and how Das gets inspired to take charge of the Sikh uprising against Muslim rulers. Later, the despotic Wazir Khan, who kills two of Guru Govind Singh’s sons, is targeted by Banda Singh to settle the score.
Those of us who have studied history are familiar with many insidious conspiracies that resulted in bloodshed, backstabbing and brutal beheadings. Here, the protagonist is someone you know little about, but we are well acquainted with the scheming and plotting that often led to heartless battles. Baweja’s earlier film, Chaar Sahibzaade in Punjabi that maintained the sanctity of the religious content and dealt with the teachings of the 10th and final Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, and the martyrdom of his four sons, was a hit in 2014. The sequel probes further into Sikh religious history and follows the folklore surrounding Banda Singh.
The film is not without flaws: using photo-real animation, Baweja çan’t go beyond the photo-real animation of characters that limits interactive moments in the film. Also, it does little to showcase the history of times. Hence, barring Sikhs, not many outside their community would be genuinely interested in a narrative that looks one-sided. There are times when it just misses to touch your heart. For all its attempts at wonder and spectacle and play, it could be a slog. The emotional connection that should have the crowd cheering wildly for the heroes never clicks in. In that sense, it lacks a dramatic edge.
However, in spite of the glitches, children need to watch this one. Many of us would complain that it can in no way match up to the slick Hollywood animation films that they are constantly pampered with. Despite some tacky animation in places, it does have all the ingredients of a narrative that should serve them good to watch true stories of bravery closer home. Many a times, we sit through a film waiting for something spectacular to evolve, thinking that if the story doesn’t grab us, the visuals will. Baweja’s storytelling is, at best, gripping in parts, and has a few good visuals, but is full of awkward attempts to tell a linear story.
The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories.