Sarbjit (film)

Sarbjit is a 2016 Indian biographical drama film directed by Omung Kumar. The film features Aishwarya Rai as Dalbir Kaur and Randeep Hooda portrays the title role Sarabjit Singh, an Indian man who was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1991 and who consequently spent 22 years in prison for alleged terrorism and spying while Richa Chadda and Darshan Kumar play supporting roles.[3][4][5][6][7]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byOmung Kumar
Produced byVashu Bhagnani
Bhushan Kumar
Sandip Ssingh
Omung Kumar
Deepshikha Deshmukh
Krishan Kumar
Jackky Bhagnani
Rajesh Singh
Written byUtkarshini Vashishtha,
Rajesh Beri
StarringAishwarya Rai
Randeep Hooda
Richa Chadha
Darshan Kumaar
Music byJeet Gannguli
Amaal Mallik
Tanishk Bagchi
Shashi Shivam
CinematographyKiran Deohans
Edited byRajesh Pandey
Pooja Entertainment
Legend Studios Pvt. Ltd
Distributed byT-Series
Release date
  • 20 May 2016 (2016-05-20)
Budget15 crore[1]
Box office43.8 crore[2]

Made on a production budget of 15 crore and marketed at 8 crore,[1] Sarbjit premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival[8] and was released on 20 May 2016 to mixed reactions from critics.[9][10] The film turned out to be a profitable venture at box-office by grossing about 43.88 crore worldwide after its two-week run.[11][12][13]


Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai), two years after she suffers the stillbirth of her daughter, leaves her abusive husband Baldev (Ankur Bhatia) and arrives to stay with Sarbjit's family. She works in a textile mill to support the family alongside Sarbjit. Sarbjit Singh (Randeep Hooda) lives in Bhikhiwind, Punjab with his wife Sukhpreet (Richa Chadda), their two daughters Poonam (Ankita Shrivastav) and Swapandeep (Shiwani Saini) and his father Darji. He works as a farmer and is a loving younger brother.

In 1990, after becoming drunk, Sarbjit accidentally crosses the border and arrives in Pakistan, where he is convicted as an Indian spy. He is alleged as Ranjit Singh, and accused of causing bomb blasts in Lahore. His claims of innocence are ignored and he is tortured for months before he is able to inform his family of his captivity through a letter. In an attempt to appease the Pakistani police, Sarbjit falsely confesses to terrorism and is promptly given a death sentence. Dalbir, determined to free her brother, enlists the help of lawyer Awais Sheikh (Darshan Kumar). Their plea for justice is supported across India and condemned in Pakistan; the media in both countries continues to cover the case, causing Sarbjit's sentence to be repeatedly delayed.

In 2012, after 22 years of imprisonment, Sarbjit's family is allowed to visit him in jail. They are heartbroken to witness him as a tortured prisoner but he rejoices in the short-lived reunion. Subsequently, his death sentence commutes to life in prison; having already served nearly twice the length of a standard Pakistani life sentence, it is assumed that he will be pardoned and released imminently. The Pakistani government soon clarifies that the release order they issued was not for Sarbjit, but for a prisoner named Surjeet, devastating Sarbjit's family. A year later, Sarbjit is attacked in his jail cell by Pakistani prisoners, and is admitted to a local hospital in critical condition, eventually succumbing to a comatose state. His sister, wife and grown daughters visit him but are forced to leave shortly before his death. Sarbjit's body is delivered to India, where his village and family mourn as they reminisce his life. As the film ends, Dalbir promises that she will always continue trying to fulfill his dying wish of being recognized as an innocent man.



Casting and Characters

Aishwarya Rai, Randeep Hooda and Richa Chadda was Omung's first choice for principal characters in the film.[14] The Media has questioned Omung on casting Aishwarya as she does not resemble Dalbir Kaur.[15] He said that "It is the story of the character not the resemblance. Everybody told me I was mad to cast Aishwarya. But then, they said similar things when I cast Priyanka Chopra for Mary Kom; that she won’t fit the role, she doesn’t look North Eastern, and so on. But I’d decided that for Dalbir’s part, I wanted someone who’s mature enough, who could play a 22-year-old and 60-year-old as well, someone who commands and demands respect when she speaks. Aishwarya is a director’s actress, she is a fantastic. We can see her in any role possible, but yes, they talk about her beauty more."[16]

It was reported that Sarabjit's daughters were also keen on Randeep Hooda playing the title role.[14] The actor had lost 18 kg in 28 days.[17] Richa Chadda was selected for the role of Sarbjit's wife. This is her second film opposite Hooda.[18] Darshan Kumar was cast as Pakistani lawyer who fights for Sarabjit in the film.[19] Ankur Bhatia was confirmed to play as Aishwarya Rai's husband in the film.[20]


The film locations included Punjab, Delhi and Mumbai.[21] Few crucial scenes was shot at the Wagah Border.[22] The director had created the by-lanes of Pakistan in Mumbai Bohri Mohallah, besides Punjab. The protagonist's house was recreated in Aarey Colony in the city though it could have been shot in Tarn Taran (Sarbjit Singh's hometown), the filmmaker reasoned that the town looks a little too modernized for the Punjab of 90s. Since Sarbjit's home was to be shown over a period of two decades, the set was changed accordingly.[23] It was reported on 18 March 2016 that the film shoot was halted for over four hours and producer (Zafar Mehdi) was arrested for hurting national sentiments while shooting a rally sequence with anti-Indian slogans in Urdu. The scene didn't go down well with the locals at Bhendi Bazaar and they filed a complaint against the makers. However Police officials has released Zafar Mehdi as they had valid permission to shoot for the film.[24]


Sarbjit was selected for the Indiwood Panorama Competition section at the 2nd edition of Indiwood Carnival 2016 in Hyderabad.[25]

Pre-release revenue

The makers of Sarbjit recovered the total budget 23 crore (US$3.3 million) including production and marketing/promotional costs and made 9 crore (US$1.3 million) profit via sales of theatrical-Satellite-music-home video rights even before the release.[26] India and Overseas rights were sold for 20 crore (US$2.9 million) while the Satellite, Home video and music rights were sold for 12 crore (US$1.7 million).[13]


The music for Sarbjit is composed by Jeet Gannguli, Amaal Mallik, Tanishk Bagchi, Shail-Pritesh,Shashi Shivam. The first song "Salamat" was released on 18 April 2016.[27] The music rights of the film are acquired by T-Series.

1."Salamat"Rashmi ViragAmaal MallikArijit Singh, Tulsi Kumar4:30
2."Nindiya"Sandip SsinghShashi-ShivamArijit Singh3:00
3."Dard"Rashmi Virag, JaaniJeet GannguliSonu Nigam4:42
4."Rabba"Arafat MehmoodTanishk BagchiShafqat Amanat Ali3:48
5."Allah Hu Allah"Haider NajmiTanishk BagchiShashaa Tirupati, Altamash, Rabbani Mustafa Khan4:57
6."Tung Lak"Sandip SsinghShail-PriteshSukhwinder Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shail Hada & Kalpana Gandharv3:25
7."Meherbaan"A M TurazShail-PriteshSukhwinder Singh, Shail Hada, Munnawar Masoom4:02
8."Barsan Laagi"A M TurazShail–PriteshShail Hada4:55
9."Mera Junoon"A M TurazShail-PriteshShail Hada4:06
10."Sarbjit Theme" Shail-PriteshShail Hada 
Total length:35:65


The film opened to mixed to positive response from reviewers,[28] and was criticised for its melodrama, poor screenplay and editing.[29][30]

Rachit Gupta from Filmfare gave 4 stars and noted "The actors really save the film. Hooda as Sarbjit is beyond brilliant. Rai Bachchan performance is a bit inconsistent, but scenes where she lets the silences and eyes take over are just marvelous. Richa Chadda plays the stoic wife with just the right amount of underplay.[31] Zee News rated 4 stars said "The biopic will strike a chord for its genuine attempt to share a story not told on the celluloid before, coupled by stellar performances of its lead, particularly the man himself – Randeep Hooda".[32] Crtic Shaiju Mathew gave 4 out of 5 stars and said, "The movie is a dark movie with no scope for entertainment but Omung Kumar does a fabulous job with his direction to keep the audience attention captivated. Randeep Hooda has given his career best and gets into the skin of Sarbjit. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan barring few high-octane scenes where she goes overboard with histrionics delivers a strong performance.[33] Bollywood Hungama gave a rating of 3.5 stars mentioned "On the whole, SARBJIT is a landmark film with great performances and a superbly told narrative. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan delivers a performance of a lifetime. Randeep Hooda is outstanding. Richa Chadha makes a solid impact and Darshan Kumaar is effective as the liberal Pakistani lawyer".[34] The Times of India which also gave 3.5 noted "Sarbjit breaks your heart – It makes you cherish your loved ones – and appreciate others too. Randeep imbues Sarbjit with beautiful, powerful humanity".[35] IANS rated 3.5 stars stated "The film is evenly paced with a few lengthy and unwarranted scenes but overall, Sarbjit Aitwal's story is worth a watch, as it touches the right emotional chord. Aishwarya as Dalbir Kaur puts her heart and soul into her character. Randeep Hooda as Sarbjit steals the show".[36] Deccan Chronicle gave the film 3 stars said "Overall, the film takes you on an emotional ride. Randeep's stellar performance may earn him loads of accolades and respect as an actor. Rai Bachchan convincingly portrays Dalbir's ordeal through her role. Scenes between Aishwarya and Randeep in the Pakistan prison will leave you teary eyed".[37]

Anupama Chopra who gave 3 stars for the film explained "What kept me hooked were the performances. Randeep Hooda is terrific and Richa Chadha is excellent as his wife. This is easily Aishwarya's bravest and most challenging role. There are scenes in which she impressively holds her own. But in places she is shrill, and the accent never sits right".[38] Mid-Day rated 3 stars, said "A lot rides on Ash's shoulders as this is the role that demands dollops of courage even when under the most vulnerable of situations".[39] The Tribune gave 3 stars summarized "Well intended and fairly well executed Sarbjit makes the viewing grade. The film essentially belongs to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, as Dalbir, she has done a sincere act, even though her Punjabi accent is not quite consistent and Randeep is first rate".[40] Rajeev Masand also gave 3 stars to the film and stated "In many ways Sarbjit feels half-baked and wanting. But the performances – particularly Randeep Hooda's – keeps you invested in what's on the screen. It's not a perfect film, but there is enough to appreciate here".[41] Sonia Chopra from Sify rated 3 stars praised the performances of the leads and noted "Kumar does a fair job, but the film bears the brunt of melodrama rearing its head in the form of flashbacks and over-the-top dialogue".[42] Subhash K. Jha described the film as "Gem" and commented "Sarbjit has immense poignancy at its heart. Though Rai Bachchan performance gets shrill at times, it never loses it power. Randeep Hooda’s physical transformation as a traumatized prisoner is astonishing and convincing".[43]

DNA rated 2.5 stars commented that "If you want to know about Sarabjit, google it for free. You'll know more than what the film has to offer. As the film's primary driver, Rai fails to do full justice to Dalbir. Randeep Hooda is restrained but again cannot rise beyond the ordinary screenplay".[44] Koimoi gave 2 stars and noted "A contrived plot and over the top performance by Ash makes this movie a lengthy affair. For not doing justice to the actual Sarbjit issue, I’d say this film is passable".[45] NDTV which also gave 2 stars stated "With the star not shining all that bright and the actors in the mix not allowed to play the game their way, Sarbjit is a well-meaning outing that fails to do justice to its subject. Watch it only if you are an Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan fan no matter what".[46] India Today reviewer gave 1.5 stars and mentioned "The blame lies largely in the script which doesn't leave much for its actors to do other than excessively cry or scream or otherwise sit sulking".[47] Shubhra Gupta from The Indian Express gave same rating as 1.5 stars and noted "Randeep Hooda nails the look and the accent, letting neither overpower him, and is the only reason to sit through this sagging saga. If Aishwarya had modulated her act, ‘Sarbjit’ would have been a better film".[48] Raja Sen of Rediff gave 1.5 stars said "Sarbjit is an irresponsibly sloppy film, a film so focused on artless emotional manipulation and trying to make the audience weep, that it trivialises an important true-life story".[49] The Hindu reviewer Namrata Joshi commented that " Instead of a coherent narrative the film feels utterly disjointed and on top of that the director doesn’t seem to know how to calibrate emotions well. He goes overboard with melodrama".[50]

Box office

At the end of second week, the film has grossed 43.88 crore (US$6.3 million) worldwide and became a financially profitable at the box office.[51][2][52]


Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Stardust Awards Film Of The Year Sarbjit Nominated [53]
Performer of the year (Male) Randeep Hooda Nominated [53]
Performer of the year (Female) Aishwarya Rai Nominated [53]
Filmmaker Of The Year Omung Kumar Nominated [53]
Best Supporting Role (Female) Richa Chadda Nominated [53]
Iconic Performance of The Year award Aishwarya Rai Won [54]
Filmfare Awards Best Actress Aishwarya Rai Nominated [55]
Best Supporting Actress Richa Chadda Nominated [56]
Lions Gold Awards Best Actress Aishwarya Rai Won [57]
International Film Festival & Awards of Australia (IFFAA) Best Actress Aishwarya Rai Won [58]
Matri Shree Media Award Best Feature film Aishwarya Rai-starrer film Won [59]
9th Mirchi Music Awards Upcoming Music Composer of The Year Tanishk Bagchi – "Allah Hu Allah" Nominated [60][61]
Raag-Inspired Song of the Year "Meherbaan" Won


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