UNEVENLY MADE THOUGH it is, when this movie ends, you are left with a feeling of great sadness. Not so much for the individual Sarabjit Singh, but over the bitterness between nations portrayed in this film. There must be more than one point of view on the story of Sarabjit— shown here as an innocent farmer who was arrested for unknowingly crossing the border in Punjab and then tried and sentenced to death for being an ‘Indian spy’ involved in acts of terror in Pakistan. But we don’t see it. The perspective we are given is that of his sister, Dalbir Kaur, who campaigned tirelessly for 23 years to get him released.
She is shown here as a passionate sister and an obsessive individual who has put her life at the service of activism. In the process, Sarbajit’s wife, Sukhpreet (Richa Chadda), and her two daughters are caught up in an incessant political churn that goes on for more than two decades. Though no less devastated by the incarceration of her husband, Sukhpreet starts to resent Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai) being in the limelight. The film shows the family putting up a united front despite these personal problems.
Unfortunately, there are no shades of grey presented in the narrative. Aishwarya Rai is unable to portray complexity in her role and her limitations as an actress affect the emotional quotient of the film. Moments of poignancy are turned into melodrama. She ages over the years with the help of make-up, but her body language and voice do not alter correspondingly. She just becomes more shrill. This is a pity, because Randeep Hooda as Sarbajit Singh is outstanding. He plays a man trapped in a political system that is mired in intractable history; a man who has his spirit gradually consumed and his dignity destroyed. In the end, what we have is the life of a man erased by two states in perpetual conflict.