Sam Bahadur: Unraveling the Cinematic Journey of a Storied Soldier


Sam Bahadur,” the latest offering from director Meghna Gulzar and lead actor Vicky Kaushal, promises to be a cinematic exploration of the extraordinary life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Riding on the successes of Meghna Gulzar’s previous films, “Talvar” (2015) and “Raazi” (2018), and Vicky Kaushal’s notable portrayals in films like “Uri: The Surgical Strike” (2019) and “Sardar Udham” (2021), expectations are high. The film dives into the dramatic escapades and wit of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, a near-mythical figure in Indian military history.

The Cinematic Landscape

In the vast landscape of Indian cinema, “Sam Bahadur” holds promise as it ventures into the biopic genre, aiming to bring to life the valiant and eventful journey of a revered military leader. However, as the audience delves into the film, it becomes apparent that the cinematic brilliance anticipated may be amiss.

Anticipation and Elements in Play

Before we dissect the nuances of “Sam Bahadur,” it’s crucial to acknowledge the anticipation surrounding the film. Meghna Gulzar, known for her skillful storytelling, and Vicky Kaushal, renowned for his versatility, create a powerful combination. The film revolves around the legendary Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, whose life is a tapestry woven with courage, resilience, and a brush with mortality during WWII.

The Quest for Cinematic Brilliance

As the audience settles into their seats, there is a palpable sense of anticipation, an eagerness to witness the decisive moments that would make “Sam Bahadur” stand out. However, despite the talent behind the scenes, the film falls short of delivering the anticipated brilliance. The narrative, which should have been a tapestry of vivid emotions and compelling storytelling, seems to lack the finesse required to engage the audience fully.

Humor Amidst the Seriousness

One aspect the film attempts to leverage is humor. Writer Bhavani Iyer and director Meghna Gulzar weave moments of levity into the narrative, aiming to balance the gravity of a war biopic with moments of lightness. However, these attempts, while commendable, do not contribute significantly to the overall impact of the film. The humor, at times, feels forced, leaving the audience waiting for more genuine moments of connection with the characters.

The Elusive Point

As the credits roll and the lights come up in the cinema hall, the audience is left grappling with a sense of emptiness. The point of “Sam Bahadur” seems to have eluded many, as if they’ve been presented with a fresh retelling of a familiar story—reminiscent of an annual online listicle celebrating the life of Sam Manekshaw. The film, despite its potential, appears to lack a clear and resonant message, leaving viewers questioning the purpose of the cinematic journey they just undertook.

Biopic Challenges and Narrative Framework

Biopics, by their very nature, pose unique challenges. They often tread a fine line between an episodic retelling of events and the need for a cohesive narrative. “Sam Bahadur” finds itself within this intricate web, and while it admirably attempts to navigate the complexities of Manekshaw’s life, it seems to fall into the common traps of the biopic genre.

Memorability and Central Conflict

What makes a biopic memorable? This question is central to the evaluation of films within this genre. The most impactful biopics locate and delve into the central conflict of the protagonist’s life. They unravel the layers, presenting the audience with a nuanced understanding of the individual’s struggles, triumphs, and the internal battles that defined their journey.

In contrast, “Sam Bahadur” appears to choose a more straightforward path. The film focuses on celebrating the legend of Sam Manekshaw without delving too deeply into the intricacies of his character. It lacks the narrative pyrotechnics that often elevate biopics to cinematic excellence. Instead of weaving a compelling central conflict, the film seems content with showcasing the surface-level heroics of its celebrated protagonist.

Hagiography or Honesty

As the film unfolds, a discernible shift in tone becomes evident. “Sam Bahadur” appears to be single-mindedly committed to immortalizing Manekshaw as a national hero. While this dedication to honoring a national icon is commendable, it edges dangerously close to transforming the film into a hagiography—a worshipful tribute that tends to idealize its subject.

The risk with hagiographies is that they often sacrifice the complexities and flaws inherent in any individual’s life for the sake of preserving an idealized image. In doing so, they miss the opportunity to connect with the audience on a deeper, more emotional level. “Sam Bahadur,” in its pursuit of celebrating Manekshaw, may have overlooked the potential for a more honest and resonant portrayal.

Character Nuance

Surprisingly, where the film seems to stumble in portraying its central character, it finds some redemption in the nuanced characterization of Manekshaw’s Pakistani counterpart, Yahya Khan, portrayed by Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub. This unexpected depth in character portrayal adds an interesting layer to the narrative, albeit not without some critique on the aging makeup and prosthetics.

Yahya Khan’s character receives more attention and subtlety, showcasing the complexities of his role in contrast to the relatively straightforward presentation of Manekshaw. This dynamic adds a layer of intrigue to the film, raising questions about the choices made in character development and where the narrative chose to invest its emotional capital.


“Sam Bahadur” emerges as a film with tremendous potential, anchored by a director with a proven track record and an actor celebrated for his performances. Yet, it falls short of the expectations that precede it. The elusive brilliance, the decisive cinematic moments, and the clear purpose of the film seem to escape the audience.

As the credits roll, viewers are left with a cinematic experience that feels like a missed opportunity. The film, while visually engaging and commendable in parts, lacks the depth and resonance that could have elevated it to a lasting piece of cinematic art. The tale of Sam Manekshaw, a colossal figure in Indian military history, deserved a portrayal that transcended the boundaries of a mere retelling—a portrayal that delved into the intricacies of the human experience, flaws and all.

In the end, “Sam Bahadur” leaves its audience with a sense of yearning—for the untold stories, the unexplored nuances, and the cinematic brilliance that might have been. As the quest for compelling biopics continues, “Sam Bahadur” stands as a reminder of the challenges inherent in bringing real-life stories to the silver screen and the delicate balance required to navigate the complexities of the human experience.

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