Mohandas K. Gandhi may be India’s most famous freedom fighter, and he was no doubt very instrumental in that country’s eventual independance from the British Empire in 1947, but of course he wasn’t the only one. And while non-Indians only remember Gandhi (and even then…), we thankfully have movies to educate and entertain us with the tales of other courageous and patriotic individuals, such as Bhagat Singh and his buddies.
A native of the Punjab region in northern India, Bhagat Singh was a fervent follower of Gandhi and his non-violence early in his life, but grew disillusioned with him following his reaction to the Chauri Chaura massacre of February 1922. Later or, in college, his patriotism as fervent as ever, he joined the communist organization HRA with some buddies of his and they started freedom fighting, the violent way.
The Legend Of Bhagat Singh was directed by Rajkumar Santoshi (Family: Ties Of Blood), who co-wrote the flick with Ranjit Kapoor (Mangal Pandey: The Rising), Piyush Mishra (1971) and Anjum Rajabali (Naina). Ajay Devgan (Omkara) stars. Trailer (followed by a song from the film) and review after the jump.
Bluntly, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh is a very poorly-made film. No it’s not horrible, just unremarkable in every way. The movie is filled with average and the directing in particular is uninspired. I mean, you can see that Mr Santoshi knows a thing or two about filmmaking and framing shots, but this is perhaps the only film where I never thought something along the lines of “um, yeah he kind of did something sort of interesting with this scene”.
In addition, the acting is very uneven, with Ajay Devgan clearly being the most competent thespian among the main characters, and despite winning an award for this role, this really isn’t his finest work. The English actors in particular are quite horrendous, portraying their characters as if they were in some kind of parody. In fact, a lot of the film looks like some sort of spoof with the director awkwardly resorting to manicheism to prove his point.
Finally the songs, while very good, are poorly inserted into the film. Most people unfamiliar with popular Indian cinema imagine the films as incessantly breaking into song and dance for no particular reason, but that is far from the case. Generally, songs in Indian movies are as important to the film as other scenes and are inserted quite seamlessly. Here though the execution just feels sloppy.
Some of these problems can probably be traced to the film’s relatively small budget of around six hundred thousand American dollars (a really big budget for a Hindi-language film is between ten and fifteen million). Still, money isn’t everything and many a talented director has proven you can make a lot with very little. In the end, it was for some reason well-received by critics and won a few awards, but The Legend Of Bhagat Singh was a big failure in theaters and is considered a “disaster” by Box Office India.
In short, while the story behind the film is undoubtedly interesting, you’re better off reading the Wikipedia pages concerning the events. If you’re interested in Indian revolutionaries, I recommend you watch Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey: The Rising instead. And if it’s specifically Bhagat Singh who interests you, look no further than Rakesh Omprakash Mehra’s superb Rang De Basanti, which doesn’t deal directly with the freedom fighter, but features a group of modern students inspired by him.