Sardar Udham, the 2021 Amazon Original, is directed by Shoojit Sircar, a director who doesn’t get it wrong most of the time. The screenplay has been artfully written by Ritesh Shah and Shubhendu Bhattacharya.
The film is a slow burn. It is to be savored rare, like the good old steak. The film’s length might seem elongated and tonality quite deathly and morose, but it is a conscious decision on the part of the makers. They always knew that the treatment of Sardar Udam is not very commercial or like the Indian audience is used to seeing. This is a global piece of art that should be watched and appreciated by all. There are no long monologues or heroic comebacks.
Sardar Udham speaks the loudest through its silence. It stirs you from inside and makes you extremely uncomfortable.
Let’s address the various questions about this revolutionary named Udham Singh. Let’s understand why we know so little about him and how the Jallianwala bagh Massacre turned his life forever.
Who was Sardar Udham?
Born as Sher Singh, Udham Singh lost his parents at a very early stage. He was raised in an orphanage. Udham Singh was involved in revolutionary activities but in a manner that would not make him a bootable or illustrious figure. But the Jallianwala Bagh massacre changed it all. It is shown in the film that Singh went to the Jallianwala bagh after the killings had been carried out. His love interest Reshma was part of the peaceful gathering that was held there. Though he went to find her, he was shocked beyond measure at what he saw there. Thousands had been killed and several heavily injured. He started putting people who were still alive on a trolly and taking them to the hospital.
That grim night haunted him forever. It changed his life, and he decided to sacrifice his youth for the freedom of his country. He was unequivocal that he could only fight for the equality of humanity once he and his country were free. He joined the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), which was earlier known as the Hindustan Republican Association and was founded by Ram Prasad Bismil. Later, Bhagat Singh became one of the most influential party members and added the word “socialist.”
Udham Singh was a close friend and an ally of Bhagat Singh and did keep his ideologies in high regard.
Was General Reginald Dyer responsible for the Jallianwala Massacre?
In popular culture, we have always heard about how General Dyer had led the forces in the Jallianwala Bagh and killed the men, women, and kids who were peacefully protesting there. But he was not the mastermind behind the massacre. He was just following orders and carrying out his duty. Michael O’Dwyer was the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab Province during the massacre. The Indians were condemning the Rowlatt Act and were protesting for the same. Michael O’Dwyer wanted to set an example. He was very sure that any kind of rebellion could only be suppressed by fear. He felt that only punishment is not enough, but fear of punishment should be there among the masses. He told General Reginald Dyer that he should do what was necessary.
In his statement made in front of the Hunter Commission, General Dyer accepted that he had gone there with an intention to shoot. Marshall Law had been applied, and there was a curfew in place. He had pre-decided that he would not give any warning and directly start shooting.
But all this was in accordance to the ideologies of Michael O’Dwyer, who till his last breath upheld that whatever he did or passively ordered General Reginald Dyer to do, was for the betterment of the Crown. And majorly because of his actions, the British Regime was able to control a potential mutiny.
Did Michael O’Dwyer feel guilty about the Jallianwala Massacre?
A committee was formed to inquire into the events that took place in Punjab. Lord Hunter was the chairman of the committee, and both Michael O’Dwyer and General Reginald Dyer were questioned on the fact that how necessary it was for them to shoot on the unarmed Indians gathered in Jallianwala Bagh for a peaceful protest.
Michael O’Dwyer did not have even an iota of guilt. He said that the Indians had been given a warning when Marshall law was applied, and so General Dyer was totally in his capacity when he started shooting without any sort of warning. O’Dwyer said he approved the actions of General Dyer because it was necessary to rule by example.
Some years later, Udham Singh starts working as a house help in Michael O’Dwyer’s house with the intent of finding an opportunity to kill him. At that time, Udham Singh realizes that the man still does not take any culpability and firmly believes that he was a faithful servant of the Crown and did something worthy of appreciation. Moreover, he got validation from society which was evident from the honorary title of “Sir” given to him.
Did the British Government try to suppress information about Udham Singh?
British Government after Bhagat Singh had realized the power of press and media. They knew that Udham Singh would use the trial as a podium to propagate his views and ideologies to the world. They controlled what was printed and branded Udham Singh as just a terrorist who was harmful to a civilized society.
Udham Singh went on a hunger strike and stopped eating food in prison. The government knew that these things had the potential of impacting sentiments. They didn’t want the people to have a perception that Udham Singh was a martyr. They broke his hunger strike by putting a pipe in his throat and funneling some food inside.
On 31st July 1940, Sardar Udham Singh was hanged for killing Michael O’Dwyer and injuring many others at Caxton Hall.
‘Sardar Udham’ Ending, Explained – I Was a Revolutionary!
Detective Swain asks Udham Singh if he could do something for him. Udham Singh replies that he would want the world to know that he was not a lunatic. He was not a terrorist. He was a revolutionary who killed Michael O’Dwyer because he held him responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. There were women and children who were brutally murdered on his orders. Instead of punishing him, he was given an elite status in society.
The Crown was successful in its endeavor as today’s generation is unaware of the sacrifice made by Udham Singh. We failed as a system when we were not able to commemorate the death of a martyr. Our history books remained silent, and our “Gen Z” couldn’t care less.
The film ends on a solid note, where the makers say that it’s been more than 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, and the Indians are yet to receive an official apology from the British Government.
Sardar Udham is a soulfully curated piece of art that will leave you anguished, tormented, and harrowed. Streaming on Amazon Prime, it is one of the finest specimens of filmmaking, a brave attempt that should be watched by each and every one.
Sardar Udham is a 2021 Biopic Crime Drama directed by Shoojit Sircar.