“Ae Watan Mere Watan, Glad You Could Make It” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Our Rating

Ae Watan Mere Watan
It is strange, but director Kannan Iyer has directed just one other film in his entire career. Ek Thi Dayan in 2013 featured Konkona Sen Sharma as a, ha ha, witch. Which, if you think about it, is just the antithesis of what Sara Ali Khan plays in Iyer’s second film.

Ae Watan Mere Watan warmly embraces all the shining trophy-like atrophied tropes of desh-bhakti films, and yet succeeds in being a trifle removed from its flag-waving origins.

Sara Ali Khan, so far known for making faces on camera, withdraws into a quietly assured space to play Usha Mehta, a fierce nationalist who combated colonialism in her own way by manning an underground radio station propagating the views and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi while he, the Mahatma, was jailed.

Uniquely, the character Usha Mehta’s fight for freedom is in-sync with the actress’ flight into freedom. If Usha Mehta finds her groove, so does Sara Ali Khan. She ‘syncs’ her actorial acumen (for whatever it may be worth) deep into her firebrand character, and emerges with a triumphant performance.

I wish some of the supporting cast was more impressive. Usha’s two male accompanists in her symphony of salvation are played by Abhay Verma (last seen hamming in a film called White) and Sparsh Srivastava (so sincere as the runaway bride’s harried groom in Laapata Ladies). Here playing Kaushik and Fahadh they are both brutally out of their depth, trying not to look too impressed by their glamorous (deglamorized) co-star and failing miserably.

Other than Sara, the one performance that stands out is Emraan Hashmi as Ram Mohan Lohia. Hashmi makes a late entry. But stands his ground firmly and persuasively. Sachin Khedekar too is credible (when is he not!) as Usha’s father, a lackey of the Brits who is torn between his loyalty to the Colonists and his love for his revolutionary daughter.

Surprisingly the Britishers don’t come across as growling caricatures. Alex O’Neill, who is now to Caucasian parts in Hindi cinema what Tom Alter once used to be , is fairly conclusive as John Lyre who is assigned to crack Usha and her team’s whereabouts .

Post midpoint the film becomes a cat-and-mouse chase between Usha Mehta and John Lyre. Director Kannan Iyer has designed the chase through darkly-lit gullies and bazaars as a mix of tension and fun, with neither factor pushing into each other’s jurisdiction. Amalendu Chaudhary’s cinematography is organic to the impressive periodicity of the frames.

A lot of the more cynical elements watching Ae Watan Mere Watan would probably demand to know, iss mein naya kya hai? It isn’t uniqueness that we seek in this experience. It is the reassurance that those who fought for our freedom didn’t do so in vain.

That assurance comes across rather stoutly and sweetly in this watchable sometimes-mushy often-engaging patriotic confection.

Our Rating

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