Sikander Lacks Strong Story But Some Of The Dialogue Is Entertaining!

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By R. Paul Dhillon

My buddy Bobby Nagra and I bought our first ticket for a Punjabi film – Sikander – mainly because we already saw all the new Hollywood releases and I wanted to see if Sikander was really all that different as being hyped on social media!

Written and directed by Jatinder Mauhar, who earlier made Mitti, the film begins with a lot of promise but soon after the opening credits disintegrates into an unfocused school yard fight with a bunch of low rent thugs and killers, who are also addicts of various narcotics!

The film quickly loses the audience with two rival Punjab University all male Groups (killers and thugs masquerading as student body power seekers) who are bent upon revenge after the assassination of one youth leader in the opening of the film.

The film tries to tell the story of this campus group-baazzi with backing from even bigger criminals – the Politicians! The main problem is that we don’t really get to know the various characters of the two Groups and their motivations other than it is about gaining power through murder and mayhem with the strings being pulled by politicians in power and their opposition rivals!

Also there is no plot per se and the film’s forward momentum is hindered by the lack of a strong story! So we get a bunch of campus gangsters running around doing stuff that cinematically doesn’t amount to much!

For example there is a pivotal moment in the film when the central female character Beant Kaur, played by co-producer and Bollywood character-actor Gul Panag, gets gang raped by some campus rapists who are part of one of the gangster groups but the emotional payoff is robbed because we don’t see the gang-rape and it’s not clear if it is random or it’s deliberately done to take revenge against the main character Sikander (Kartar Cheema), who was once her lover and who still has feelings for her!

Despite a strong cast of what seems like theatre actors, director Mauhar just can’t get the story to jell and that is the film’s undoing and leaves the viewer unsatisfied with this half-baked look at various problems facing youth like drugs, violence and disrespect for women!

What I did like about the film is its occasional juicy dialogue. Mauhar isn’t afraid to call Jatt or Bahman (pandit) like people do in everyday life in Punjab. The dialogue in many scenes rings true and if Mauhar had real strong story to go with the dialogue then he had real winner.

But as is, it’s a very weak and at times a ridiculous film that has laughable ending of stupid shoot outs at the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib that is not worthy of what it is trying to say. In fact, the last act had Beant fighting the student election with a common-man approach after she is raped and later during her campaign – her best friend – the poet-artist Shameer – is murdered. But the film just abandons this story and opts to go the violent way of shootouts!

Mauhar had some big shoes to fill as Jimmy Sheirgill and his team has already delivered a strong film in the Political-corruption-murder genre with Dharti, which I felt was a rip-off of Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti but was still well done with Punjab politics!

Sikander, however, does not rise beyond the pedantic!

There were rumors that along with changing the original title from Sarsa to Sikander, the film was re-edited to please those in power without the director’s approval. If this is the case, then the blame would go to the producers for this debacle rather than director Mauhar, who has been missing in action during its release.

My co-cinephile Bobby Nagra, who is not known to be kind to slow films with no story, felt this was the worst film he saw in a long time!

I, on the other hand, feel there was a lot of potential in this film and it’s a wasted opportunity given the strong cast. Also on a positive note I really liked the performance of Yaad Grewal, who was quite entertaining as the main villain Harjang! I would like to cast him when I make my next film!