‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’ Review: Does The Sara Ali Khan Film Hold Up?


Kannan Iyer’s Ae Watan Mere Watan comes 11 years after his last venture, Ek Thi Daayan. Yeah, it’s an interesting shift in genre, to say the least. From what I remember, Ek Thi Daayan was a surprisingly thrilling film that did the job of being scary while simultaneously having a worthy plot. There is one thing in common between these two films: the green color grading, in one meant to induce fright, and in the other, the period in which the film is set. I do understand the reasoning behind adding a sepia filter to a film about freedom fighters set in 1942; however, I’m not sure if that’s enough to give us a sense of history. Ae Watan Mere Watan is a sincere film, there’s no denying that; however, there’s something that keeps it from being a good historical film. This is an untold story; it’s one of courage and patriotism, yet somehow, it’s not one that’ll stick in your memory for much longer after the curtains close. I say curtains because it does almost feel like an elaborate 2-hour, 13-minute theatrical drama. The acting occasionally feels forced, and I suppose, given the subject matter, it’s a film that requires extreme oomph to make it seem like you’ve stepped directly into 1942. But, alas, it does not translate as expected. 

Is it that we’re so far from the 1940s now that we’re incapable of bringing the realness to it? Perhaps the younglings (no, I fall into this same age category) are unable to encapsulate the charm and natural tone with which these films are meant to be presented. I don’t mean to be an ageist; I’m just trying to understand for myself why, when the formula seems okay, the results aren’t perfect. It’s 1942, and Gandhi is about to get the whole country to scream “Do or die” at the peak of the fight against the British. Gandhians are known to be speakers of truth, wearers of white and often times sworn to celibacy— and Usha was one of them, the protagonist of Ae Watan Mere Watan, not to be confused by the song, because, Lord help me, I can’t get it out of my head every time I write the words down. Usha grew up in a privileged household with her judge father and an aunt. Usha’s story begins at a very young age, and despite her father’s disdain for her patriotism, she’s resolute in her stance against the British. I’d say this summarizes the film accurately. It’s apparent that Usha and her friend Fahad will never step away from danger, and it’s something that is force-fed to us multiple times through the film, as if just being a part of the freedom movement isn’t enough for us to know that they’re willing to die for the country. 

We have an abundance of films set in this era, yet some stories elude us. Usha’s is one such story, yet there’s nothing nuanced about this film. I think that for a film to be impactful today, in the capacity with which Ae Watan Mere Watan hopes to be, the film has to carry serious weight through performance, script, and, of course, visual language. This film seems to be lacking in all these aspects. There are some standout performances, Sparsh Srivastav is definitely going to be a massive star soon enough, and Emraan Hashmi never ceases to surprise, but that’s about it. Abhay Verma barely has a role, but he’s charming with whatever little he’s got. I do like Sara Ali Khan, and she tries really hard to be seen as a strong and empowering woman, but her eyebrows never seem to agree with her. It’s a shame, because there’s something likeable about her, and she has given decent performances earlier. My memory brings Atrangi Re and Simba to mind, but somehow in this one, I can’t bring myself to defend her. Maybe one of the theater kids could’ve done a better job, and I wouldn’t be making an argument regarding the whole generation’s capabilities. But I suppose one could say that they’re trying at least.  

In terms of pacing, the film is quite tedious, and by the end, this fact becomes very evident. However, there is an advantage that it went directly to an OTT release because, in this way, I could occasionally pause the movie to deal with my distractions, which came too often. The film tries to build the story steadily and cascade into something of a grand scale—an emotional ending, of course—but it seems to have spent too much time setting us up for a conclusion that doesn’t quite deliver emotionally. 

There was one part of this film that made me want to turn it off for good. Fahad, Usha’s friend and comrade, has a limp, and the film makes us believe that these two people are always competing for the award of most dedicated freedom fighter (Mild spoiler warning here). So, there comes a time when only one of them can take that extra step to put themselves in the line of fire. To do this, Usha compares Fahad’s limp to her womanhood, and not only was this terrifying to watch, but it was very awkwardly made and left me very disoriented. I’m sure this will be the last straw for some of you too. I don’t know exactly why this bit was added to the film at all, considering it’s got nothing to do with the real story, so I can’t help but imagine it’s simply for shock value, made in poor taste. The dialogue is also quite over the top throughout the film, and there are some bits that simply don’t work. 

At the end of the day, Ae Watan Mere Watan tells an untold story in the most ordinary manner, unable to highlight the extraordinary nature of the whole thing. I’d give Ae Watan Mere Watan 2 stars out of 5 for effort and for putting out Usha Mehta’s story. However, I’d suggest reading up about her rather than watching this film. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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