Ae Watan Mere Watan review: Neither consistently captivating nor memorably exciting

A still image of Ae Watan Simple Watan. (courtesy: saraalikhan95)

As history and politics increasingly serve as blatant propaganda vehicles in the hands of some Mumbai filmmakers, it is with apprehension that one approaches Ae Watan Simple Watan. Fortunately, it turns out that the historical thriller produced by Dharmatic Entertainment and Amazon MGM Studios doesn't have any agenda-tinted blinders.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and starring Sara Ali Khan as a khadi-clad freedom fighter taking on the might of the British, Ae Watan Simple Watan is not prey to excess since it brings to the screen a little-known but important chapter of the Indian independence movement.

As the film's freedom fighters shout slogans, express unwavering anti-colonial intent, and resist a brutal regime, Ae Watan Simple Watan is anything but prone to garish posturing. The restraint the film shows in promoting patriotism is commendable but it unfortunately doesn't translate into anything greater than the sum of its parts.

Ae Watan Simple Watandirected by Kannan Iyer who made his debut ten years ago with the supernatural horror film Ek Thi Dayanisn't as impactful as it should have been given its lack of elements that instantly resonate at a time when the news is in the middle of a long, silly season.

Screenplay by Darab Farooqui, Ae Watan Simple Watan revolves around a period in the life of freedom fighter Usha Mehta. Sara Ali Khan, who plays the title character, is far too porcelain and delicate to convey the fierce determination of this remarkably valiant woman.

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's “do or die” call as part of the Quit India movement, Usha Mehta, then just 22 years old and at odds with her pro-Churchill judge father (Sachin Khedekar) who sees no reason to which the family should side with Congress established a secret radio station in 1942 to carry the message of independence to the people.

The film only covers a brief period of history. Usha's defiance lasted for a few months before the police targeted her and her associates. For violating a ban on radio stations during World War II, she was imprisoned for four years. But neither the fear of criminal prosecution nor the prospect of her father's anger can stop the young woman.

Gandhi, played by Uday Chandra, appears in two scenes. The accent of Ae Watan Simple Watan is about socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia (Emraan Hashmi is an extended appearance). The latter's voice is heard repeatedly on the airwaves and elsewhere as Usha and her associates, Kaushik (Abhay Verma) and Fahad (Sparsh Shrivastava), run Congress Radio from a secret location and dodge the law for as long as they can.

Hindi cinema has never given Lohia his due. By giving her a special place in the story of Usha Mehta, Ae Watan Simple Watan offers the public an important piece of history that has not been sufficiently highlighted until now. Hashmi, an actor who likes to be effortless, fleshes out Lohia without resorting to overly flashy methods.

Although the performance is suitably heavy-handed, the film seems to struggle with pacing and depth. Not so much the swashbuckling drama that it ideally should have been as a thriller cast in a conventional mold with action scenes and chases, Ae Watan Simple Watan lacks the intrinsic power to generate real tension and a sense of danger.

The film equates waves with wings. Spread your wings, Mahatma Gandhi exhorted his disciples. That's exactly what Usha intends to do: seek freedom using the radio signals she transmits “from somewhere in India.”

Mumbai Police Inspector John Lyre (Alexx O'Nell) is on the trail of the people behind the secret radio station. The film's climax (parts of which are revealed in a brief prelude) centers on a raid on a building housing the clandestine broadcasting facility.

A cop points a gun at Usha as she runs down a flight of stairs. The sequence shifts to a scene in which the protagonist, a 10-year-old girl, is in an open-air classroom in Surat where a teacher explains to her the importance of the freedom struggle.

The staging is somewhat stuffy and the emphasis is on dialogues that resemble speeches more than conversational exchanges. But a few points which Ae Watan Simple Watan the brands have contemporary relevance and are worth mentioning.

In one scene, Usha says that information gives power to people. She made the statement in response to an associate's lament that newspapers of the time were spreading lies. What we see and think, he adds, is controlled by these sources of information. Official communication channels are spreading fake news, says Usha, and so it is imperative to let people know the truth.

In another sequence, Usha and her comrades discuss the pitfalls of andh-bhakti (blind obedience), citing the example of Lohia who, although idolizing Jawaharlal Nehru, would not hesitate to criticize him when the need arose. made it felt.

At another point in the film, Lohia is again quoted to emphasize that the fight against a tyrant is not necessarily waged with the aim of triumphing over him. We fight a tyrant because he is a tyrant. Ae Watan Simple Watan does not present patriotism as an end in itself nor as a panacea for all problems. This goes beyond the narrow limits of what the notion represents today.

Ae Watan Simple Watan addresses themes of love and revolution, freedom and unity, truth and pragmatism with an undercurrent of subversion that gives it an edge and elevates it above the chronicle which he seeks to elaborate to tell a story of unsung heroes of India's freedom struggle. .

Top-notch production design ensures that period details do not deteriorate. Cinematographer Amalendu Chaudhary lends an evocative quality to the film’s visual palette.

Ae Watan Simple Watan makes his arguments clearly and frankly. It tells a story that has meat, but the storytelling style the film adopts prevents it from being consistently gripping or memorable.


Sara Ali Khan, Sachin Khedekar, Abhay Verma, Sparsh Shrivastav, Alexx O'Nell, Anand Tiwari, Emraan Hashmi


Kannan Iyer

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