What’s with these boring war films in the past few weeks? Following in the footsteps of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur. Despite being a film about one of the most prolific military leaders in India’s recent history, the movie fails to feature even a single well-structured battle, let alone the war that defined the future of the entire Indian subcontinent.

Even with a runtime of over 2 hours, I walked out of Sam Bahadur knowing next to nothing about the titular character. The biopic feels more like a History class PowerPoint with bullet points on the highlights of Sam Manekshaw’s life rather than a deep dive into his very colourful life or his psyche. In fact, reading Manekshaw’s Wikipedia page offers a more interesting look into the man’s life. There is no nuance or shades of grey to Gulzar’s Manekshaw; he is a superhero who waves a wand and solves all issues while leaders like Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Indira Gandhi can only gawk in awe. You don’t for a second believe that Sam’s life or career is in danger, whether he’s shot at over 8 times or booked under anti-national charges. Perhaps a chronological highlight reel really wasn’t the right direction.

Vicky Kaushal tries his best to make you believe that it is really Manekshaw in flesh and blood, and he does succeed to a certain extent. But it doesn’t help that the film covers a span of four decades yet refuses to age or de-age its lead actor in any way. Kaushal pouting under a salt and pepper speckled moustache does not look the part of a hardy war veteran with years of experience behind him. On the other hand, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays Yahya Khan, has his face covered in the most comical facial prosthetics I have seen in recent times. The man can barely move!

Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra make the most of the script they have been given, but they really haven’t been given much. There is a running gag about Manekshaw’s wife Siloo (played by Malhotra) being jealous of her husband spending far too much time with Sheikh’s Indira Gandhi, and I found it to be absolutely unnecessary if not demeaning in a bid to add to the myth and glory of Sam Manekshaw.

Apathy is not the emotion I expected to be overwhelmed with before watching Sam Bahadur, but despite the bloodshed and thumping patriotism, the film failed to rouse any other feeling in me. How can a film not have anything to say besides singing praises for its protagonist? I am just glad I had popcorn to keep me awake.