Shershaah, a biopic made on the heroic life of the 25-year-old brave Indian soldier Vikram Batra, written by Sandeep Shrivastava and produced by Karan Johar (Dharma Productions), was released on August 15, 2021 on the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence. The film pays homage to 527 martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the 1999 Kargil war.
Through this movie, artfully directed by Vishnuvardhan, we are introduced to Major Vikram Batra’s great leadership and the wonderful camaraderie within his unit. The script and screenplay were kept close to the real-life story, without falling into the hype of Bollywood. The cute love story between an innocent Sardar girl Dimple Cheema (Kiara Adwani) and a naive, headstrong Vikram Batra (Sidharth Malhotra) from Himachal Pradesh is charming. Subtle cues, exchanged looks, and awkward conversations shared by the two lovebirds are natural and believable. The music is certainly the heartbeat of their love story! It becomes very easy for the audience to fall in love with their budding romance. Sidharth Malhotra fits the role. His portrayal of Vikram’s attitude, stance, lightheartedness, and audacity are palpable.
Cinematographer Kamaljeet Negi takes us up to the scenic mountains of Kashmir where the deadliest battles are fought. Ever since the partition of India in 1945, there has been a constant armed skirmish between the Indian and Pakistan armies. That and the influx of terrorist militias has transformed this “heaven on Earth” into a land of treachery and desperation.
Vikram is posted in Sopore, Jammu & Kashmir and is allotted to the Delta company of the 13th battalion of J&K Rifles. He exudes warmth, friendliness, and characteristics of a small-town boy. But those who have not seen that kind of openness beforehand are a bit standoffish (as is Dimple’s father). His seniors tell him to get his head out of the clouds and be wary of the high slopes: “Panv fisla to seedha Pakistan mein giroge” (If your foot slips, you’ll fall straight into Pakistani territory) or “thoda distance bana ke rakho” (keep some distance on these trails). But he soon grows on everyone. In a very nostalgic moment, Vikram gets a letter from his girlfriend and their love story is revealed in a flashback.
At Sopore, Vikram acts on a tip from a local Kashmiri and his unit recovers a large number of weapons. Vikram is in high spirits but they are ambushed on the way back and his buddy is shot in the crossfire. He is heartbroken and says, “Aaj se meri company mein koi marega nahi” (After today, no one from my company will die). He resolves to avenge the death of his friends. These strategic strikes thwart the overtures of the Pakistani Army in Kashmir. He is praised for his bravery and goes home to spend time with his family and Dimple. But when Vikram learns that General Musharraf’s army has infiltrated Kargil’s Kaksar Langpa region in an effort to capture Kashmir, he shortens his visit and returns to the base. As though prescient of his martyrdom, he covertly takes four pheres with Dimple around the Holy Book at the Gurudwara and then colors her maang with his blood — a sign of marriage before he leaves.
Meanwhile, the tension in Kashmir has blown up to full-scale war! In this final mission, his code name is Shershaah and he fights like a true Lion King, capturing the toughest peak in the war — Pt.4875. Life is not measured in years but in deeds – we see that relay itself in the story told by Shershaah.
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.