One tends to enjoy a film even more when it has the unforeseeable factor adjoined to its premise. Unfortunately, a number of storytellers in Pollywood are playing safe with repetitive storylines these days but a few have actually stepped forward to surprise us with attention-grabbing yarns we haven't witnessed earlier on the Punjabi screen. Some get it right, some don't, but what needs to be lauded is the effort to break the mould, to go beyond the stereotype. Harry Bhatti's Sardar Mohammad also dares to push the envelope.
Sardar Mohammad is about a guy named Surjit who is adopted by a Colonel during the partition era and after nearly 19 years, sets on a journey to find his actual identity and his mother. Tarsem Jassar in Rabb Da Radio and Sardar Mohammad share no commonality except for the fact that he's done a surprisingly good job in this film. Despite a few hiccups, this period film is indeed enjoyable.
First, the premise! Surjit [Tarsem Jassar] hails from a Punjabi family in Ludhiana. His father is a Colonel who has served during the pre-independence time and has witnessed the harrowing incidents that were committed in the name of religion. It is during one such incidents when Colonel gets his hands on a five year old, the only one surviving after the massacre.
Colonel, shocked to see the horrific crime scene, takes the child home and hands him over to his wife. The couple then adopts the child and thereafter, the story graduates with a leap in time. Surjit has 3 brothers and a sister and is the eldest sibling. He is loved and respected by all for being a man of substance and equally helpful.
Sardar Mohammad starts off as yet another attempt to encapsulate the rural Punjabi set-up, replete with Sardari and heavy preachy dialogues but once you get engrossed in the film, everything sounds intellectual and sane.
It's hard to take your eyes off Rahul Jugraj, who captures the nuances of his character spot-on. He's simply outstanding! Even when the goings-on appear stretched, Rahul doesn't miss a beat. The earnestness and sincerity he invests in his performance is for all to see.
The other actor worth mentioning is the one who plays their domestic help. His expressive eyes and act is very believable. Karamjit Anmol, though subtly used, is worthy of a mention too. He's, at no point of time, taken over the limelight with his comedy and remained as subtle and sensitive as the storyline of the film.
Harry Bhatti's direction is impressive and credits should also be given to the art director of the film. Tarsem, as the dialogue screenplay and story writer, though had taken a lot of burden on his shoulders, but we are glad that he emerged as a winner in this attempt.
On the whole, Sardar Mohammad reinvents the genre with its non-formulaic screenplay and skilled direction. A delicate film, this one's made with heart and feeling and it shows. Absolutely recommended!
Please don't expect any erratic nonsense and flashy songs in this one.