The struggle for independence rested on the twin pillars of Gandhi’s non-violent protest and the ‘tit-for-tat by any means possible’ protest spearheaded by Azad, Bismil and Bhagat Singh. The Legend of Bhagat Singh traces the life and times of Bhagat Singh. The film starts as a jumbled collage of rapidly moving pictures, shows a very young Bhagat Singh who is witnessing the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in a “surreal” way, then moves to his getting thoroughly disillusioned by the backtracking done by the Mahatma, and picks up steam as the young college student Bhagat turns into a firebrand. A ragtag team of comrades gather and nucleate around Chandra Shekhar Azad to rob the train going through Kakori. Then Saunders is murdered by the revolutionaries. Finally in an attempt to show the nation that they are serious revolutionaries and not terrorists and to win popular support for their cause, they blast a bomb in the assembly and are arrested. Many months in prison follow with deprivations, a fast to improve conditions in jail, torture and force feedings. The trio of Bhagat, Rajguru and Sukhdev are sentenced to hang for the murder of Saunders but not before the nation is energized and change is in the air.
Who will not be inspired by such a stirring tale that is reasonably well told? But I cannot help compare this tale told by Rajkumar Santoshi to the one told to us by Manoj Kumar in Shaheed. This vibrant colorful tale pales in comparison to that stirring take in black and white so many years ago. It seems heavily inspired by the older film, many songs and situations parallel the old. Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna was not penned in that jail – so if it was an add-on in Shaheed, it was certainly “copied” from that version here. TLOBS falls short in a few areas – it is overly dramatized in many segments and this is a shortcoming for a film that has the backdrop of patriotic fervor. Even a subtle film will do the job, and in fact might do it better as shown in Shaheed. The romantic interlude song was the most jarring, why was the Punjabi Kudi dreaming a fantasy number in the Kashmir mountains? I would have been happy with Sarson Ke Khet. The last song and the trio walking through an interminable Bhool Bhuliaya of corridors was not needed. And why were the women folk on the outside? Was the hanging not moved forward by 12 hours? These faults in the scripting made the film seem like a hurried effort.
The acting ranged from very good to OK. Sushant Singh did a very commendable job as Sukhdev, as did Santosh as Rajguru, Ajay started out shaky but settled into the role quite well by the end of the film. Akhilendra Mishra was excellent as Aazd. The entire British cast was abysmal and the court scenes were quite bad. Bhagat’s family was very well depicted. All in all I think this was a decent and informative film, but it could have been so much better if the director had been able to restrain the histrionics and the overly dramatic moments. I give it an A- for effort but only a B for the overall film.
A word about the music – I hate to say this as I think AR Rahman is a genius. But the way the familiar songs Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna, Pagdi Sambhal and Mera Rang De Basanti were composed made them seem distorted. I wish he had stayed with the original tunes. This ruined the soundtrack for me.