Updated March 22nd, 2024 at 15:43 IST

Ae Watan Mere Watan Review: Sara Ali Khan Sinks Flimsy Film About Freedom Struggle

Sara Ali Khan's portrayal of the young freedom fighter Usha Mehta in Ae Watan Mere Watan lacks depth, emotion and conviction.

Reported by: Mugdha Kapoor
Ae Watan Mere Watan | Image:IMDb
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Set against the backdrop of the 1942 Quit India movement, Ae Watan Mere Watan, helmed by Kannan Iyer who has returned to the director's chair a decade after his directorial debut Ek Thi Daayan (2013), attempts to narrate the story of Usha Mehta, a 22-year-old college girl who ran an underground radio station, Congress Radio, to counter the British-controlled AIR. The film aims to capture the pivotal role Mehta and the Congress Radio played, in igniting the flames of resistance against British colonial rule.

Sara Ali Khan in a still from Ae Watan Mere Watan | Image: YouTube screengrab 

However, what unfolds on screen is not a gripping tale of bravery and sacrifice, but rather a clumsy attempt that glorifies the Congress as the beacon of hope for the nation days ahead of the 2024 general elections.

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Hot Take

While attempting to portray India's struggle for independence, Ae Watan Mere Watan falls into the trap of simplistic narratives. The film glosses over the complexities of the era, reducing significant events to mere plot devices.

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Ae Watan Mere Watan fails to effectively convey the gravity of the freedom struggle. The characters feel more like caricatures than fully fleshed-out individuals and their dialogue delivery is devoid of emotions and nuance. The focus of the film is diverted towards superficial romantic subplots and exaggerated portrayals of villainous British officers (prepare yourself to see Alexx O'Nell as British officer John Lyre who is fixated on finding a tod for a tod).

Sara Ali Khan in a still from Ae Watan Mere Watan | Image: YouTube screengrab 

The plot follows a linear trajectory, offering few surprises to keep the audiences hooked. Also, instead of immersing the audience in the tremendous challenges of the times, the film opts for surface-level storytelling that miserably fails to engage or inspire.

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Does Ae Watan Mere Watan live up to the hype?

Ae Watan Mere Watan is unbearable, thanks to Sara Ali Khan, who portrays the protagonist Usha. Her portrayal of the young freedom fighter lacks depth, emotion and conviction, failing to capture the essence of Mehta's courageous spirit. Her dialogue delivery feels forced; her expressions mismatched. Especially in scenes where she's uttering the iconic Gandhian slogan "karo ya maro" (do or die) and thumping her chest while chanting Vande Mataram, it's a struggle to watch the actress.

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Last seen in Homi Adajania-directed Murder Mubarak essaying the role of the glamourous Bambi Todi - a prime suspect in the whodunit, the 28-year-old has struggled to deliver a worthwhile performance in her 7-year career that includes box office debacles such as Love Aaj Kal, Simmba and Coolie No. 1 to name a few.

In Ae Watan Mere Watan, Sara's performance overall lacks the gravitas required to bring to the big screen the inspiring story of the fearless revolutionary, leaving a glaring void at the heart of the film. She is a complete miscast.

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Sara Ali Khan in a still from Ae Watan Mere Watan | Image: YouTube screengrab 

The film further falters due to its weak screenplay, pacing and structure. Scenes lack cohesion and continuity. The melodramatic moments between the protagonist and her father played by Sachin Khedekar, detract from the overall narrative flow.

Additionally, the rapid progression of events towards the climax when Ram Manohar Lohia (Emraan Hashmi), in-charge of carrying out the underground activities, sends the message of Bharat Roko to freedom fighters and volunteers across the nation via Congress Radio, feels unrealistic. However, Hashmi shines in his role, bringing sincerity to the character.

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Uday Chandra, who plays Gandhi, has a blink-and-miss role.

Meanwhile, Abhay Varma and Sparsh Srivastava's efforts are overshadowed by Sara's lackluster portrayal of the protagonist.

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Sara Ali Khan in a still from Ae Watan Mere Watan | Image: YouTube screengrab 

Watch it or skip it?

Ae Watan Mere Watan is marred by its poor execution, uninspiring dialogues, sub-par performances and disappointing depiction of key events that led to the movement that paved the way for India's Independence. At 132 minutes, the film does little to tell the audience about the unsung freedom fighter, Padma Vibhushan awardee Usha Mehta, the crucial role she played in the freedom movement and the immense sacrifices she made at a young age. You can skip this movie and you wouldn't be missing out on much.

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Bottomline

Ae Watan Mere Watan fails to do justice to the remarkable true story of one of India's original radio journalists. The film is a forgettable addition to the genre of historical biographies.

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Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

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Published March 21st, 2024 at 18:55 IST