Ae Watan Mere Watan Movie Review: For the unaware, Sara Ali Khan's new film, Ae Watan Mere Watan, is a biopic of the late freedom fighter Usha Mehta, who, in her early '20s, defied the British to participate in Quit India Movement and be part of Congress' underground revolution. Her biggest contribution to the freedom struggle was her bypassing British censorship to start a radio channel called Congress Radio, where she passed on recorded messages of the arrested leaders to the public so that the fire of the fight carried on. Ae Watan Mere Watan OTT Release: Here’s When and Where To Watch Sara Ali Khan and Emraan Hashmi’s Historical Biographical Drama!

Save for a small prologue in the first act, most of Ae Watan Mere Watan, expectedly, is set during the initial months of the Quit India Movement. We meet Usha (Sara Ali Khan), this fiery youngster who silently revolts against her father (Sachin Khedekar), a judge working for the British Empire, to help the Congress party with the revolution. Ae Watan Mere Watan, like most biopics, takes an ample amount of creative liberties to fictionalise some aspects of her life. Like from what I read, her father had retired in the '1930s, though the film shows him continuing to work as a judge even in the '40s. I can ignore this for the movie's attempt to bring some dramatic conflict early on (which mostly passes muster), but claiming Kamala Nehru Park existed in Bombay during the Quit India movement, even though it was established in 1952, shows some fallacy in researching that era.

Watch the Trailer of Ae Watan Mere Watan:

Anyway, despite promising her father that she would stay away from the freedom struggle, Usha and her two comrades, Kaushik (Abhay Verma) and Fahad (Sparsh Shrivastav) continue to help the Congress party to prep for the Quit India movement. However, their fight got a major setback when the British arrested many of the major leaders of the Congress, like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. However, Usha, Kaushik and Fahad continue the movement by starting a radio channel - despite the government banning independent channels - and they use it to pass on recorded messages of the leaders to the masses. This defiant act brings them to the attention of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (Emraan Hashmi), who uses the channel to stoke the public's anger against the Angrez rulers to come out and fight the government while the British try their best to close into the source of the channel.

Great Premise That Loses Steam Quickly

Ae Watan Mere Watan is directed by Kannan Iyer, who has previously directed Emraan Hashmi in the spooky thriller Ek Thi Daayan. Ek Thi Daayan had an intriguing premise and a terrifying performance from Konkona Sensharma but lost steam when it didn't know how to flesh out the story and bring it to an apt conclusion.

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

Ae Watan Mere Watan, in spite of occasionally sparkling dialogues from Darab Farooqui, has that issue throughout the film. The story of Usha Mehta deserves a stirring movie, but Ae Watan Mere Watan just doesn't hit the bull's eye here, in fact, it hardly hits the dart-board.

Sara Ali Khan

The biggest problem with the film is the leading lady herself. Sara Ali Khan has a nice onscreen presence and looks age-appropriate for the role. But the rawness in her performance - also evident in last week's Murder Mubarak - doesn't do justice to the character. Murder Mubarak Movie Review: Pankaj Tripathi and Sara Ali Khan's Engaging Whodunnit is Foiled by Its Anti-Climactic Finale.

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

Sara Ali Khan particularly struggles in the emotional scenes, which harp on you throughout the first act and do not allow you to connect with her character at the onset. It also sucks that there's some kitschy writing in these portions.

The Writing

Let me illustrate with an example. In one scene, a young Usha takes a bold vow of celibacy to demonstrate her commitment to the freedom struggle in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi. This moment should have carried immense power for her character, yet its impact is diminished by connecting the moment to her underdeveloped romance with Kaushik, who feels rightly affronted by her decision. Instead of portraying Usha as a strong figure, the scene portrays her as an immature adult who fails to confide in her partner before making such a significant decision (she goes on to chastise him for not taking the vow himself).

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

The entire sequence deserves to be better written, but that applies to this love story, too, which never has the dramatic weight it aims to display even when it raises its head occasionally ahead to create more unwanted drama. Though, Kaushik does get a good line near the end when he says for some, revolution is love, and for others, their love can be their revolution. In fact, there should have been more scenes of comradeship between Usha and Fahad - Laapataa Ladies' Sparsh tries his best to stand out here. However, despite frequent appearances together, their bond lacks authenticity. The only memorable scene involving them unfolds dramatically as they argue over who should feature in the final broadcast. Ae Watan Mere Watan Song ‘Julia’ Out: Sara Ali Khan and Abhay Verma Display Cute Chemistry in This Foot-Tapping Number.

Emraan Hashmi

Moving on, after a very okayish first act, Ae Watan Mere Watan does get some momentum when the trio stumble upon radion equipment through a Parsi, Firdaus Engineer (Anand Tiwari) and also with the entry of Emraan Hashmi as Dr Lohia.

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

It is such a different role for the actor, who makes a good strong impression in his first scene itself, that it felt unjust to not have a biopic on this freedom fighter led by Hashmi, considering the role here is more of an extended cameo.

Where Ae Watan Mere Watan Attempts to Fly...

Occasionally, Ae Watan Mere Watan nudges you to the edge of your seat—like the raid in the second act, where Lyre (Alexx O'Nell), the merciless officer tasked with shutting down Usha's channel, nearly jumps on the protagonist. But at the same time, the chase at the marketplace, when Usha tries to buy a transmitter, passes muster and lacks the ingenuity needed to show her character's street-smartness.

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

There are also times when Ae Watan Mere Watan tries to take sneaky digs at fascist regimes that touch a little too close to modern reality. For an industry that keeps churning out propaganda, I could say this is what Bollywood's attempt to show may have some remnants of a spine if they are also on the verge of extinction.

...But Mostly Doesn't!

However, even with the added momentum, Ae Watan Mere Watan rarely gets to spread its wings and soar high, akin to the Siberian cranes that once inspired a young Usha. The scene where Usha utilises the radio to inform and educate the public on the movement should have been inspiring, yet it feels somewhat lacking. The sequences possess a montage-like quality, transitioning swiftly between action and reactions, but they miss the emotional depth needed to connect the two truly. This continues to the end -  even the final act that shows her capture and the evocative impact of her last tryst of rebellion over the nation feel diluted thanks to the run-of-the-mill execution. The villains - the British - are depicted with broad strokes of villainy, infused with "Downton Abbey" vibes.

A Still From Ae Watan Mere Watan

Also, apologies for ruining this Ghostbusters song by dragging and parodying it here...

'There is an Indian film... casting gora actors in the neighbourhood... Who you gonna call?'

'Alexx O'Nell'!

Final Thoughts on Ae Watan Mere Watan

Ae Watan Mere Watan rarely transcends beyond being a glossy patriotic drama, failing to evoke the spirit of patriotism or anguish akin to some of the more memorable films in the genre, such as The Legend of Bhagat Singh or the final act of Sardhar Udham. It represents a missed opportunity for the filmmakers to narrate the inspiring tale of a lesser-known hero of our freedom struggle and for its leading actress to deliver a commendable performance capable of silencing her critics. Ae Watan Mere Watan is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 21, 2024 12:02 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website