‘Kesari’

Thanks to streaming video websites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the Criterion Channel, I’m enjoying many of the best films in the world, not just those few available at my local ‘art house’ cinema. Last night’s was Kesari (‘Saffron’), this year’s Bollywood film about the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi, in which 21 Sikhs fighting for the British Raj held off 10,000 to 12,000 Afghan warrior attacking their small fort. As an American, I wasn’t aware of that battle, for which all 21 Sikhs were posthumously award the Indian Order of Merit, that nation’s equivalent of the British Victoria Cross or American Medal of Honor. Kesari, is one of this year’s top ten box office films in India, is reminiscent of other ‘hopelessly outnumbered’ war films, such as the 1964 film Zulu (starring Michael Caine in his first major role) about the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift (150 British soldiers vs. 4,000 Zulu warriors) or the 1962 film The 300 Spartans or 2007 film 300, both of which were about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae (in reality a few thousand Spartans against 70,000 to 100,000 Persian warriors). Good war film, yet with a minor romantic subplot. (And being a Bollywood film, at some point in the 21 Sikhs must dance and sing!) Starring the Canadian Akshay Kumar, India’s highest-paid actor, the fourth highest-paid in the world. Available on Netflix, in Hindi with English-subtitles.

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