"Aaj meri pagdi bhi Kesari, jo bahega mera lahu bhi Kesari aur mera jawaab bhi kesari." This was supposed to be intense. But not once does Akshay Kumar's Kesari flourish up to that magnitude of intensity. Instead, it rides on perceptibly over-dramatic locus to instil a certain amount of patriotism. Kesari, helmed by Anurag Singh, is inspired by the Battle of Saragarhi that took place between the British Army's Sikh regiment and the Afghans, around the undivided India-Afghanistan border. The makers also resorted to plenty of fiction here; something that's declared but feels uncomfortable at times.
Akshay goes by the name of havaldar Ishar Singh, posted in Gulistan fort, and finds himself saving a Muslim woman from being beheaded by her father and husband. This is against the consent of Ishar Singh's British Commander who would not want his soldiers to be involved in such affairs. As a 'Punishment', Akshay is transferred to Saragarhi fort, a relatively calmer spot.
It is after Ishar Singh takes charge of the Saragarhi fort, does the real war incept. Prior to that, the director undertakes a number of lame attempts to establish Ishar Singh's efficiency as a stern soldier. Hence, Singh is seen taking care of poor soldiers who were helping themselves with some recreation and eventually orders them to go two weeks without food!
The Sikh regiment's battle with the Afghans eventually takes a larger communal shape as the primary initiators are identified as Jihadis. Ishar Singh and his 20 brave men fight till their last breath, putting up a great show of bravery.
The first half of Kesari feels like a drag, with the backcloth trying to build up the pre-war emotions we weren't connecting to, at all. Akshay's character could do without the inessential emotional baggage it was subjected to. In the drive of churning out the grandeur of war, the makers end up resorting to dramatisation that is in our face. Kesari goes back to being the kind of a war film where soldiers scream almost louder than their guns, are unharmed even when it's raining bullets and only one is enough to combat hundreds of opponents. It ultimately takes the film nowhere.
Akshay, throughout this outing, is his repetitive self, even though he hasn't played something similar to Ishar Singh in the recent past. Parineeti Chopra, having had roughly ten minutes of screen time in the entire film, didn't have any substance to add. She does her role of being a soldier's better half who embraces the sacrifice. That's all.
Anurag Singh, who took his first step of directing a Hindi film with Kesari, might want to take a second look into his visual approach of telling a story as well as building up little moments that ultimately constitute to a larger impact.