Sardar Udham is a 2021 Indian Hindi-language biographical historical drama film directed by Shoojit Sircar, and produced by Rising Sun Films in collaboration with Kino Works. The screenplay is written by Shubhendu Bhattacharya and Ritesh Shah, who also wrote the dialogues for the film. Based on the life of Udham Singh, a freedom fighter from Punjab who assassinated Michael O’Dwyer in London to avenge the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar,the film starred Vicky Kaushal in the titular role, along with Shaun Scott, Stephen Hogan, Amol Parashar, Banita Sandhu and Kirsty Averton in supporting roles.
Shoojit Sircar pitched the idea of Udham Singh’s biopic during his college days, and planned to produce the film in his mid-1990s, but the research work on the freedom fighter took him two long decades. It was eventually supposed to be made with Irrfan Khan in the titular role, but was latter offered to Kaushal as Khan stepped out due to health conditions. The film was officially announced in March 2019, with principal photography began on April. In a marathon schedule of 6–7 months, spanning four climatic seasons, the makers completed the shooting of the film during December 2019. The makers shot the film in major portions of Russia and India, while also filming few sequences in United Kingdom and Ireland.
Sardar Udham features musical score composed by Shantanu Moitra, cinematography handled by Avik Mukhopadhyay and editing done by Chandrashekhar Prajapati. Initially being delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the makers headed for a direct-to-digital premiere through the streaming service Amazon Prime Video, surpassing theatrical release. The film released on 16 October 2021, during the Dusshera weekend and eventually received widespread critical acclaim, with praise directed on Kaushal’s performance, direction, screenplay, dialogues, technical aspects, and also the realistic portrayal of the incidents in the post-Independent era, but criticised the lengthy running time. The film was also shortlisted among with 14 other films for the Indian submissions for Best Foreign Film category at the 94th Academy Awards, but was not selected.
The film goes back and forth from the present, where Udham is in London, to his past when he was part of the HSRA and explores his reasons for assassinating O’Dwyer. Udham Singh (known as Sher Singh) is released from prison in Punjab in British India. He is constantly being watched by the authorities. He leaves India and goes to USSR during what appears to be winter. From there he makes his way to London by ship. Even though the authorities are on the lookout for him, he successfully evades them and lives in London, making a living as a salesman and then a welder. He is shown in front of Caxton Hall, making his way inside where O’Dwyer is giving a speech on his time as Lt. Governor of Punjab and how he had suppressed a major uprising. Udham makes his way to O’Dwyer and shoots him, and is arrested. Udham Singh is appointed a lawyer who slowly gets Udham to tell his backstory. Udham is brought to court and in spite of a good lawyer, the judges sentence him to death. In spite of that, he makes a passionate speech about the British atrocities in India in spite of them being only traders and that he does not hate the British, just the figureheads of their rule and atrocities in India.
Udham protests the conditions of his detention and goes on a 42-day fast, but is force-fed to break it. He slowly opens up to the investigating inspector and tells him the reasons for the assassination.
In 1919, Udham is a young adult working in a textile mill near Amritsar, with a girlfriend who is mute. On 13th April, 1919, General Dyer on order from O’Dwyer opens fire on a crowd of 20,000 peaceful protestors inside Jallianwala Bagh. Udham is sleeping unaware of the massacre, until his friend wakes him up, mortally wounded and bleeding profusely. He hears about the massacre and rushes to the grounds to help. It is shown that along with a few other volunteers, Udham finds survivors and gets them to a makeshift hospital which is overwhelmed itself. He is executed and shown to have a photo of Bhagat Singh, taken when Bhagat Singh was in jail during his final days.
In the final scene, Gen. Dyer and O’Dwyer give their own accounts to the Hunter Commission.
Vicky Kaushal as Udham Singh/Ram Mohammad Singh Azad
Shaun Scott as Michael O’Dwyer
Stephen Hogan as Detective Inspector Swain
Amol Parashar as Bhagat Singh
Banita Sandhu as Reshma
Kirsty Averton as Eileen Palmer
Andrew Havill as General Reginald Dyer
Ritesh Shah as Koppikar
Manas Tiwari as Nihal Singh
Tim Berrington as John Hutchinson
Tom Hudson as Winston Churchill
Nicholas Gecks as Justice Atkinson
Sam Retford as Detective Deighton
Simon Weir as King George VI
Jogi Mallang as Surat Ali
Kuljeet Singh as S. S. Johal
Tushar Singhal as Informer of Udham Singh
Sarfaraz Alam Safu as Interpreter At Scotland Yard