Synopsis – Based on the life of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was martyred in action during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and was consequently awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, on 26 January 2009.
My Take – While the tragedy of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai has been the subject of many other features, but what immediately differentiates this latest take from director Sashi Kiran Tikka and writer-star Adivi Sesh, other than the fact that it was filmed simultaneously in Telugu and Hindi languages, is that it primarily focuses on the life of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, an Indian army officer, who sacrificed his life while fighting off terrorists and rescuing 14 hostages in the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Set as a biopic, the film sees how the late Major transformed from a young man to a fearless soldier. A man whose loyalty to the nation came above his responsibility towards his family and spouse, and whose sacrifice effectively answers the film’s core point, what does it mean to be a soldier?
Though the screenplay is sprinkled throughout with plenty of action to satisfy buffs (like myself), what turns the film into a winner is due to its successful emotional display of getting the emotions behind the soldier’s life right.
Sure, the film contains a few flaws, nevertheless, the whole experience is effective enough to leave viewers emotionally charged for soldiers who stake everything for the nation. And that too thankfully, without jingoistic overtones. Making the whole experience a heart-touching tribute to Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and his family.
Narrated by his parents (Prakash Raj and Revathi), the story follows Sandeep Unnikrishnan (Adivi Sesh), who from a young age has a protective instinct embedded in his DNA. He feels fear but doesn’t think twice before putting himself in harm’s way if it means helping someone. A dream which manifests into a zeal of pursuing a career in uniform, either navy or army.
Initially, his parents are disappointed by his plans, but they allow him to pursue this dream when they realize that he is serious about serving the nation. But while his job of being a NSG commander and trainer of commandos puts severe strain on his martial life with Isha (Saiee Manjrekar), he remains determined to do his bit.
And when terrorists begin their attack in Mumbai, Sandeep ends up convincing his superior Commander Shera (Murali Sharma) to lead the mission despite the fact that trainers don’t involve in operations, finding himself at the center of tragedy. Hence, when the inevitable happens, you mourn not just a soldier who sacrificed his life for the country but a life that he could’ve lived.
Mainly as director Sashi Kiran Tikka and writer Adivi Sesh decide to focus on Sandeep the human as a whole rather than just Sandeep the martyr. Divided into two parts, the film showcases Sandeep’s life from childhood to his army career in the first half. Revealing how small incidents in his childhood and his teenage life had shaped his thinking. Along with the growth and turbulence of his romantic relationship with Isha.
While the second half is focused on the NSG operation in Mumbai. The film links every incident in his life to his decisions as a soldier. Yes, the focus on early life is a bit slow and contains predictable marital sequences which do feel a bit stretched beyond a point. However, the shortcomings are quickly overcome with fantastic sequences like his father running to get the NDA admission letter to Sandeep. Also the scene when Isha suddenly pays him a sudden visit is noteworthy.
The film gives us a moment of pride and emotional breakdown when Sandeep’s father recalls what he felt when he sat where Sandeep breathed his last. His words at Sandeep’s memorial that say the life of Sandeep Unnikrishnan should be remembered and celebrated, are very emotional. While the dialogues successfully manage to pull heart strings, the final slides of Sandeep’s life in the end, are sure to leave one in tears.
Performance wise, Adivi Sesh excels in the role of a lifetime. Sesh is highly effective in showcasing his performance as a smooth faced teenager who might come across as naïve to a man who knows what he wants from life and is willing to fight for it, even if circumstances don’t always allow it. Saiee Manjrekar gets ample scope to perform and shares excellent chemistry with Sesh.
In supporting roles, Prakash Raj and Revathi as Sandeep’s parents bring a lot of emotional depth to the film. Sobhita Dhulipala breezes through her role, while Murali Sharma and Abhinav Singh Raghav are good. On the whole, ‘Major’ is a praise worthy tribute to a fallen hero, well anchored by its performances and endearing drama.
Directed – Sashi Kiran Tikka
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 150 minutes