Watching Gadar 2 is like watching Gadar 1 two times. The film opens with a long-drawn, sepia-toned recap of the 2001 original. We see Tara Singh (Sunny Deol) slicing Muslims at the time of Partition. He then bumps into his crush, his madame ji Sakina (Ameesha Patel), who is trying to escape bloodthirsty Indians. He saves her, marries her and has a child with her. She comes to know her family is alive, goes to meet them in Pakistan and is trapped by them. Tara, along with his son Charanjeet ‘Jeetey’ Singh (a young Utkarsh Sharma), pays a visit. They find Sakina. Her father Ashraf Ali (late Amrish Puri) asks Tara to convert to Islam. He agrees. Ashraf asks him to say ‘Hindustan Murdabad’. He uproots a hand pump. The rest is film history.
Director Anil Sharma can’t seem to determine if Gadar is a revered or a forgotten classic. With Gadar 2, he decides to treat it both ways. The result is a scene where Sunny gets off his truck and calls out to his comic-relief of a co-driver, who wakes up and funnily bumps his head. A callback to late Vivek Shauq’s character Darmiyaan from the previous film. But Sharma won’t rely on collective memory. So, we get another mini-recap of Darmiyaan enacting the same scene in Gadar. Going forward, Sakina and Tara croon ‘Udd Jaa Kaale Kaava’ (a million times more to go) and look at framed photos of what are actually stills from the previous film. These photos then dissolve into another mini-recap of the song itself. Let’s just say I regretted rewatching Gadar the previous night for this review.
Gadar 2 is a film set at the time of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, whose characters are still sour about the Partition of 1947. It is still trying to be relevant in 2023. A scene shows a tika-wearing man being asked to choose between a red Gita and a green Quran by the film’s antagonist. A red pill or a green pill for a right-wing Matrix, if you may. Speaking of the antagonist, Gadar 2 downgrades from Amrish Puri’s Ashraf to a cigar-puffing Shikari Shambhu of a Pak general Hamid Iqbal (Manish Wadhwa, who essayed a similar role in Pathaan). Hamid has a bone to pick with Tara Singh, since he killed forty of his men in the previous instalment (those army men Tara killed atop a train in the climax of Gadar finally serve some purpose). Also, Hamid’s family was killed during Partition.
We meet a wrinkly-eyed Tara Singh, who even after 22 years, has extremities of either rhyme or roar for a range. Ameesha Patel, as his wife Sakina, still confuses crying for emoting. Their son Jeetey (Utkarsh Sharma) has grown up and wishes to become an actor (“Main Chandigarh nahi jawanga, main Bambai jawanga”). Tara refuses. You wouldn’t blame him if you would have seen Jeetey mimic Prithviraj Kapoor while rehearsing for a college play. Anyway, war is brewing between India and Pakistan and Tara’s services are needed. He has to supply ammunition to our battalion which is being shelled by the enemy. A blast ensues and Tara goes missing. Possibly caught by the Pak Army under General Hamid. Now, Jeetey crosses the border to rescue his ‘pappe’. But Tara was never caught. Now, Tara has to save his Jeetey.
At a time where propagandist films give sermons on India’s “internal enemies”, Gadar 2 seems to be stuck in the early 2000s when Pakistan was the only villain. Although inexcusable, the film does feel dated in its hatred. There are talks of people being pawns in siyasi khel (Political games), barbs at Pakistan for killing their own in Bangladesh, Tarzan-like chest-thumping nationalism and a Deol who decapitates Pak armymen with a sledgehammer. Pakistanis are yet again reduced to either goatee-ed men who utter ‘amin’ between laughs, or the tabiz-wearing bhaijaans like Gul Khan (Mushtaq Khan) from Gadar. It is commendable that Anil Sharma got almost all of his original cast for the sequel. Even Dolly Singh makes a comeback as Khan’s nagging wife.
The only thing enjoyable in the film, probably for nostalgic reasons, is the indestructibility of Tara Singh. He dislocates windows with his dhai kilo ka haath, jumps across tanks and can still take on four at a time. Whenever in doubt, the film either resorts to nationalism or nostalgia. The two pillars of a massy entertainer these days. But who cares. It’s tough to hear the voice in your head over Sunny’s war cry.
Directed by: Anil Sharma
Starring: Sunny Deol, Ameesha Patel, Utkarsh Sharma, Manish Wadhwa
Rating: 1.5/5 stars
(This story originally appeared on Cinema Express)