Updated March 22nd, 2024 at 19:01 IST

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar Review: Randeep Hooda Bites Off More Than He Can Chew In Directorial Debut

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar released in theatres on March 22. The film features Randeep Hooda in the titular role, also marking his directorial debut.

Reported by: Aalokitaa Basu
Randeep Hooda in a still from Swatantrya Veer Savarkar | Image:Zee Studios/YouTube
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Just like most other genres, biopics too - with how dime a dozen they have become - have developed a blueprint of sorts. With a near three-hour long run time, Randeep Hooda, in and as Swatantrya Veer Savarkar, manages to effectively lead as the face of the film, while attempting to adhere to this blueprint. He, however, significantly struggles when it comes to executing his vision as director.

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Hot Take

Randeep Hooda has a firm grip over his craft. He, however, has had a history of picking much-too convoluted scripts which fail to do justice to his credibility as an actor - Main Aur Charles (2015) and Sarbjit (2016) being prime examples of this. Swatantrya Veer Savarakar, Hooda's third attempt at a biopic, significantly suffers owing to his inexperience as a director.

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Does Swatantrya Veer Savarkar live up to the hype?

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar is Randeep Hooda's magnum opus. However, taking over the reigns as a director for the first time has done a great disservice to the actor's vision for the same. The film delivers on the claim of tracing Hindu nationalist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's life in its entirety, sometimes almost too intricately.

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The long drawn out narrative and muddled storytelling, however, diminish the overall impact.

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Facts outweigh feelings

A historical biopic must carry facts and Randeep Hooda makes sure of that with Swatantrya Veer Savarkar. However, the particulars of what to include and what to discard is where a director's experience in gauging audience perception comes into play. Hooda is understandably new at this and thus significantly falters. In an attempt to stay true to Savarkar's life's struggles, the newly turned director tries to pack the smallest of details in, something which automatically leads to a wandering mind on the part of the audience.

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The film's segment on Savarkar's captivity in Kaala Paani for instance, could have very well been made into a separate film. The segment is raw and makes its point in the first and last five minutes. Yet, Hooda choses to accord much of the film's second half to it, unnecessarily stretching out the run time as well as the audience's patience.

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Randeep Hooda shows promise as a director

Even amid the chaos and scene packs that make up much of Swatantrya Veer Savarkar, Hooda's raw potential as a director manages to raise its head every now and then. Savarakar detailing the difference between 'sabhayta' (civilisation) and 'sanskriti' (culture), his first meeting with Gandhi, his attempt at seeking political asylum with the French by swimming across the ocean, or for that reason, showcasing the defiant yet dedicated sacrifice of Madan Lal Dhingra (exceptionally essayed by Mrinal Dutt) - all these and a few more instances come through as rather tastefully crafted.

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The biggest mistake on Hooda's part then, is not a lack of talent but taking up too much too soon in his directorial journey.

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The peace versus arms debate makes for a massive undercurrent

The last thirty minutes of the film make an honest attempt to resolve the shuffle between chaos and lull which characterises the first two-and-a-half hours. Crips cuts interlaced with archival footage effectively explain the tussle between Gandhi's non-violence, Jinnah's quest for Pakistan, Nehru's pacifism and Savarkar's (unachieved) vision of an 'Akhand Bhaarat'.

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In the struggle for India's independence, every little effort, no matter on which end of the spectrum has had a butterfly effect in the final result. The final segment of the film reminds viewers how an 'ahinsak' Gandhi was assassinated at gun point, while the always-armed Savarkar breathed his last at the end of a relay fast. Perhaps the film's biggest point stands captured in one of Savarkar's exchanges with his Kaala Paani jailer David Barry: "One man's terrorist is another man's revolutionary."

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Watch it or skip it?

Narrative building and social messaging are important, but in the world of cinema the final packaging, more often than not, can prove to be the deal breaker. Swatantrya Veer Savarkar is a sad specimen of this.

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Though the film takes an appreciable deep dive into India's political history between the 1900s to the 1960s besides tracing Savarkar's life, the three-hour long runtime is tedious and simply not worth sitting through.

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Bottomline

Randeep Hooda proves his mettle as a bona fide biopic veteran. The film also carries a strong glimpse of the actor's raw potential as a director.

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Swantantrya Veer Savarkar, however, drawls on for way too long with no big cinematic pay off at the end.

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Rating: 1.5/5

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Published March 22nd, 2024 at 19:01 IST