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Hindustan, Tara Singh zindabad! Gadar 2…? – Beyond Bollywood

There is a katha, but no screenplay. Manish Wadha shines as the new villain. Sunny Deol does Tara Singh things but the rest of the cast put up a farcical show.

Rating: ⭐️? (1.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Tara Singh is back in Pakistan. There are wanted posters of him all around in Lahore. He doesn’t need any masquerading as he roams around like a lion. A violent mob is marching towards him. They all have swords. At that moment, Tara Singh spots a ‘handpump’ nearby.  He is above to pull it out. The mob panics and makes a U-turn. There’s some cheer in the press show. Jeez, the handpump was the defining image of the previous film – Gadar – Ek Prem Katha [2001].  Unfortunately for Tara Singh fans, he leaves the handpump alone as the mob retreats.  Don’t be disappointed though, as the man does more impossible things later in Gadar 2 [2023]. He uproots a electric pole, swings a large, heavy wheel into the enemy. 

There’s no dearth of over-the-top action in Gadar 2.  To hell with the logic, even a purist would break into a little giggle while watching such daredevilry. The Katha Continues, and we genuinely have one (story) here. It originates not from Tara Singh or his family, but the genesis of Gadar 2 comes from its all-new antagonist. Naturally Hamid Iqbal [Manish Wadhwa] wasn’t present in Gadar – Ek Prem Katha [2001], but he has a score to settle with Tara Singh, the man who killed 40 of his soldiers then. We all thought it was Tara Singh v/s Pakistan in the first film. Thanks to director Anil Sharma, Iqbal, the number forty is a more believable account of the damage that Tara Singh caused 22 years ago.

Iqbal has been eyeing revenge against his arch enemy but he hasn’t spared his own either. Iqbal ensured that his fellow countryman Ashraf Ali [the late Amrish Puri] is held responsible for the humiliation in Gadar – Ek Prem Katha.  Ali is hanged to death.  Iqbal doesn’t stop then. In 1954, he confronts Pakistani Hindus. He offers them a choice – Quran or Bhagavad Gita. He beheads those who picked Gita.

Though unspecified, but we’re taken into the period close to the 1971 war. In India, Charanjeet alias Jeetey [Utkarsh Sharma] still hopes that one day he would be able to avenge his nana (maternal grandfather) Ashraf Ali’s death.  His mother Sakina [Ameesha Patel] is disturbed. She reprimands him for harboring such vengeful thoughts.  Iqbal seeks Tara Singh. Jeetey seeks Iqbal. Nature was bound to offer them a shot at revenge.

The first turn of events sees Jeetey land in Pakistan. Subsequent events then see Tara stroll to Pakistan. All hell breaks loose then. 

Gadar 2 has a katha (story), but no patkatha (screenplay) whatsoever. The jingoism is curbed, there’s extreme daredevilry for the masses, but the shambolic screenplay hurts the sequel.

Sunny Deol in a still from Gadar – Ek Prem Matha [2001].

Jeez, if Pakistanis fear the handpump so much then let’s fit handpumps at our borders. It will give a much-needed break to our jawans. The handpump 2.0 comes much later but from early on, Gadar 2 turns into an unintentional comedy.  That it lasts for 170 minutes is enough to suggest of the quality of the film.  

Why would writer-director Anil Sharma spoil the Gadar – Ek Prem Katha legacy with such a poor sequel? The answer perhaps lies in the prevalent social-political environment.  Pakistan-bashing is perhaps the most favorite thing for Indians on social media, and vice-versa. What Sharma perhaps forgot is that many of those desi trolls also have a disdain for Bollywood. The commercial greed [punt] aside, there perhaps is personal desperation here. A desire to revive his son Utkarsh’s career. We haven’t seen his earlier film Genius [2018], but the reviews were anything but flattering.

Utkarsh Sharma in Gadar 2 [2023].

Yes, he did play the young Jeetey in the first film, but it’s not written in gold that Utkarsh is a natural fit to play the adult Jeetey. The man is still grossly undercooked. His acting, dialogue delivery has cringe written all over it.  Jeez, the weird dance steps also add to the painstaking experience.

It’s 1970-71 and not 1984. We’re not sure whether traditional Sikhs gave up their turban then. Tara Singh has worn one all his life, why would his son not have one? Ah, Tara is secular as he hasn’t imposed his faith on his Pakistani Muslim wife. But there’s a tough father in him who is displeased with his son’s poor academic skills, and love for cinema. Surely, such a father would at least expect his son to be a devout Sikh.  If Gadar 2 was an attempt to resurrect Utkarsh’s career, then Anil Sharma, and Utkarsh have failed badly.

Simratt Kaur

Simratt Kaur is an outsider. She made waves before the release when a video of her went viral.  We suspect that to be a marketing initiative to draw people to the Sikh beauty. She does have a screen presence but has miles to go as an actor.  What’s respectable though is that the Muskaan-Jeetey friendship doesn’t smack of any ethnocentrism. Jeetey arrived in Pakistan with a fake identity. He impresses her with his cooking skills and soon wins her heart. The girl proposes but he’s not prepared to break her heart. He reveals the truth, his true purpose in Pakistan. Later, Muskaan’s family desiring to settle in Balochistan subtly justifies their support for Jeetey. Kaur’s casting was bizarre and the same can be said about her performance.

Ameesha Patel and Sunny Deol in Gadar 2.

After a bright beginning, two big hits in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai [2000], Gadar [2001], Ameesha Patel has been an enigma in her career. Gadar 2 is unimaginable without Patel, but the long gaps in her resume naturally lead to rustiness. She isn’t out of shape, but Patel clearly looks out of depth. That explains why Anil Sharma chose to limit her screentime post interval.

Gadar – Ek Prem Katha was a resounding success not just for its daredevilry, but it had a fine story, screenplay, consistent performances, and mesmerizing music. Anand Bakshi has passed away. Composer Uttam Singh has been thanked but he wasn’t roped for Gadar 2. Mithoon does give a fine recreation in Udd Jaa Kaale Kaava and the original Dil Jhoom track, but the rest is pretty average.

Manish Wadhwa in Gadar 2

The one consistent and refreshing aspect to Gadar 2 is Manish Wadhwa. We weren’t impressed with him in Pathaan [2023].  In his own words, replacing Amrish Puri is irreplaceable. Jeez, if Hamid Iqbal is behind the death sentence for Ashraf Ali, how could he ever take Puri’s place? Hamid Iqbal is his own man.  The trailer didn’t promise much, but Wadhwa pleasantly surprises us with his intense evil act. 

This was a period where the Pakistani military establishment used religion to whip up anti-India sentiments. Iqbal uses it to serve his lust for revenge. You do question though with the country facing another war, another partition [East Pakistan freedom movement], how could the Pakistan Army, ISI permit Iqbal to use state resources to hunt one Tara Singh and his son Jeetey? There are times when Wadhwa goes a bit over the top. It’s passable as heat-of-the-moment stuff.  Wadhwa does full justice to his character.

The other Pakistani villains end up more like henchmen. The Pakistani military establishment isn’t spared either. There’s a touch of ethnocentrism here with director Anil Sharma going a bit overboard in his mention, and eventual representation of General Rani [Akleem Akhtar] – a woman who was rumoured to be then Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan’s mistress.  (Rani became popular in Pakistani and even Indian political circles. Her granddaughter Aroosa is a close friend of former [Indian] Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh).

A powerful antagonist [Iqbal] works to Tara Singh’s advantage. It takes time though for Sunny Deol to get into his elements. The screenplay requires Tara’s brief absence. Maybe, Anil Sharma entrusted blind faith in his son’s ability to carry a film for a long period. The viewer is simply waiting for Tara Singh, the super man to return in all his glory. Sunny Deol is a bit off the mark early on, especially in the mushy, family scenes, but the legend roars back to form in the business end. Tara Singh does Tara Singh things – dushmanon ke chakke chuda diye [blows away the enemy].

The action has its mass appeal, but what’s likable is the conversation that Tara has with Iqbal in the business end. He turns the tables around and presents the Quran and the Gita to Iqbal. He lambasts him telling him why couldn’t his nation accept both?  

Gadar 2 sends out the right social, political message. However, we don’t agree with Sunny Deol when he often cites how the India-Pakistan problem is purely political and not civil. The unending conflict is largely down to the hate ideology that Pakistan’s successive establishments have propagated especially since the 70s.  It’s Pakistan who had brainwashed its civilians against India for long. It’s Pakistan who used religion as a state tool to spread terror in India.  If it is not a civilian problem, then why in his own film, do we see Pakistani civilians lead the ‘crush India’ movement?

Though social media has now become the daily battleground for spewing hate, cinema ought to be wise in the way it deals with such subjects. No, we’re not in favour of any misleading ‘Aman Ki Asha’ efforts, but this reviewer strongly feels that films like Gadar do no good to the cause of our soldiers, our innocent prisoners in Pakistan.  Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail is the same place where Sarabjit Singh was tortured, eventually killed in the garb of prisoner conflict.  We still have many Sarabjit Singhs, Kulbhushan Jadhavs languishing in Pakistani jails on false charges. The mass audience that cheer Tara Singh, will not help to release a Kulbhushan Jadhav.

In a democracy, it’s every filmmaker’s right to make content that s/he desires. We’re no one to dictate terms to Anil Sharma. However, the patriotic, action dramas still need conviction.  Hindustan, Tara Singh zindabad. We too proudly say it, but as a film, Gadar 2 is anything but zindabad.

Watch the video review below.

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