It took Joseph Matthew Matthan 7 years to write the screenplay and direct Sarfarosh. If you think that every Bollywood movie research is at par with the physics department of some private institute north-west of Boston, then you are mistaken. Sarfarosh is fast-paced, action packed and it pushes the boundary between right & wrong in the name of justice.
The story revolves around a guy, who was studying medicine before his father got kidnapped and brother killed because they were going to testify against some gang in Delhi. This guy leaves school and becomes the assistant commissioner of police. Then he gets transferred to Mumbai Crime Branch. His special task force investigates the illegal arms smuggling ring across the border.
The bad guy is a musician who doubles as a seamless smuggling kingpin. The officers exhaust their informants and contacts while leaning on their darkest self to uncover the ring and their ring master.
The said guy is ACP Ajay Singh Rathore depicted by Aamir Khan and the musician/ arms driller extraordinaire being portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah.
4 THINGS THAT MAKES THE MOVIE SPECIAL?
The movie starts like it means business and it is nobody’s business all at the same time. Innocent people get brutally shot and killed by AK 47 rifles in a village called Chandrapur by the tribal brigade even before you made yourself comfortable on the seats.
The story makes it clear very early that crime branch doesn’t give a sh*t about police protocols. They fight fire with flame throwers. This elevates the stakes involved instantly. The crime branch’s actions reaffirms that they are not here to go by the books but burn them on their way to protect the nation. I call it going ‘full John Wick’.
Naseeruddin Shah and Aamir Khan. They are the Al Pacino and Robert de Niro from Heat.
The name of every character from the movie! There is no reason to not have badass names especially when you are in a fictional world.
RANKING TOP 4 NAMES FROM THE MOVIE
Mirchi Seth - He is a paprika trader, a palm reader and an arms dealer. That’s the holy trifecta.
Bala Thakur - The name is hip yet connected to the roots of holiness. His name exudes goodness but his face is pure evil.
Fatka - Inspector Salim’s informant in the streets of Mumbai. Every good detective thriller needs a likable informant walking the line between good and bad.
ACP Ajay Singh Rathore - If your name is Ajay Singh Rathore then you should not have to give an exam or take any training to become the assistant commissioner of Police.
WHO WON THE MOVIE? THE REAL MVP
There is a lot going on in Sarfarosh and a lot of characters dividing screen time among themselves. Aamir Khan starred in Ghulam, Earth, Sarfarosh, Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai between 1998 and 2001. He was in a movie making stretch synonymous to Australian Cricket Team from 1999-2003 - undeniable. That being said, this was not the apex of his career and at most will be remembered as an honorary mention to his distinguished filmography.
Mukesh Rishi as an inspector fighting against religious prejudice with his widespread web of informants in Mumbai terrorist quarters. In 1999, you can’t think of anyone better to play the role of Inspector Salim other than Mukesh Rishi. It was a casting bulls eye. Eventhough, I would have loved Sanjay Dutt in the role!
The winner of the award is Naseeruddin Shah as Gulfam Hasan. He played a world renowned Musician and an undercover ISI agent helping transport illegal arms to facilitate terrorism. His portrayal of a soft spoken yet cunning man was captured in the scene where he cut the ear of his pet goat because it broke a vase! A goat became deaf because Gulfam Hasan liked interior decoration. Gulfam was a vicious terrorist but he did honor friendship and saved Ajay Singh Rathore’s (Aamir Khan) life more than once. Naseeruddin Shah depicts the inner demons of a man trying to get accepted by his new country after being separated from his old home in the name of religion during the war of independence. Gulfam Hassan is a low-key mount Rushmore candidate for Bollywood Villains.
THE PINCH HITTER
The pinch hitter award is given to the person who had a very short role but made the most of it with a memorable performance.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui had a screen time of less than 40 seconds as a terrorists being interrogated by Aamir Khan. 20 years later, Nawazuddin’s career has turned out different to his back up role in 1999 which makes it that bit special.
Sonali Bendre as Seema had a longer role but her impact in the storytelling was minimal. She does get a mention for coming off the bench at different moments for valuable minutes in the character building of Aamir’s Ajay Singh Rathore.
Late 90’s controversial yet definite 2nd tier Bollywood actress ranking:
The winner is Anil Upadhyay as Fatka - The police informant. This was the apex mountain of his career. I don’t even know if he acted ever again. That was the highlight of his career. Special shout out to Makrand Deshpande as the biker assasin named Shiva and Govind Namdeo as the commander of tribal militia named Veeran.
THINGS THAT ANNOYED ME
The armed militants of Chandrapur went to war wearing Lungi and Dhoti while being barefoot in a jungle. That is not the proper clothing choice when swift movement and maneuvering is primary. They were shown buying bullets and guns from Bala Thakur and Sultan. Hopefully, they saved some money from the transaction to buy pants and running shoes. That’s like ordering soup and having only forks!
Gulfam Hassan (Naseeruddin Shah) not vetting or having any knowledge of Ajay Singh Rathore being the Assistant Commissioner of Police, till he was literally sleeping in the guest bedroom is a bad look for the oppositions intelligence. How did ISI not run background on Ajay Singh Rathore through ISI Capt. Javed Abbas played by Ali Khan (he was living with Gulfam Hassan as his house help) before letting him get so close to their point (Gulfam Hassan)?
Sonali Bendre saying ‘Don’t mind’ over and over. No one says that!
REMOTE DROP MOVIE MOMENTS
You will flush your remote in the toilet to watch the whole movie when you are flipping through channels and one of these scenes come on:
The task force stake out scene at Kheda Naka Dhaba - The cops stop the illegal arms transaction while confronting Bala Thakur and Sultan. Ajay Singh Rathore’s physical struggle results in the biggest clue that connects the city of Bajid and consequently Gulfam Hassan.
ACP Ajay Singh Rathore getting attacked in the hospital by Haji seth - Haji comes to the hospital to scare off ACP Rathore and offer him bribe to stay away from the case but Rathore fights him off while being dragged down the stairs. The sly smile from Aamir Khan at the end was the biggest F**k you moment of the movie.
Any Gulfam Hassan Monolgue - Naseeruddin Shah is really good at the acting thing.
IF BOLLYWOOD REMADE SARFAROSH IN 2019?
I am all for a good remake. Varun Dhawan will play ACP Ajay Singh Rathore. Aamir Khan will be Gulfam Hassan. Vicky Kaushal will be casted as Inspector Salim alongside Kriti Sanon as Sonali Bendre’s Seema. I would enjoy Ajay Devgn as Mirchi Seth and Rajkumar Rao as Bala Thakur. Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing his 30 second role from the past would be a great ode to the original film. Factoid: Sarfarosh 2 is coming out with John Abraham.
All this started with me calling it the most underrated movie in Bollywood and I am not overselling it.