Ae Watan Mere Watan Movie Review

Ae Watan Mere Watan is based on the life of Usha Mehta, who was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi to join the freedom struggle. She took active part in the Quit India Movement in 1942. When most of the senior leaders of Congress were arrested, she helped run a secret Congress Radio for three months, keeping the spirit of the movement alive. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia broadcasted his speeches from the radio and records of other leaders, like Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad were also played on the radio. She was captured and tortured by the British and even sentenced to three years in jail. She had embraced celibacy at a young age and never got involved in active politics after India’s Independence. Later, she did doctoral studies in Gandhian philosophy and became a professor at her Wilson College. While she isn’t a luminary, she’s still counted as an important freedom fighter.

One would have loved to see the inner life of Usha Mehta being brought out in the film. It’s not clear why she was attracted towards Gandhiji and what led her towards celibacy. She’s shown to have rebelled against her father, who was a judge during the British era and is seen leaving home to fight against the British. But we’re not told how she survived on her own without any money or support. One has to keep in mind that during the 1940s, people were more conservative and it would have been really difficult for a single girl to survive on her own in Bombay. Her progression as an independent woman, free of societal norms, would have made an interesting study but the writers and the director chose to ignore that point. The internal struggles of the main, as well as ancillary characters are absent. Some scenes from the film remind you of a school play. There’s much enthusiasm in the proceedings but there’s also an absence of finesse. Sara Ali Khan’s confrontation scenes with her father, played by Sachin Khedekar, look like an acting exercise.

The film picks up upon the entry of Emraan Hashmi, who plays Ram Manohar Lohia. He plays Lohia with a certain nuance which is absent from the performance of others. You feel as if you’re actually watching a dedicated freedom fighter at work. He’s the best thing about the film and one can see that being free from the burden of playing the lead has done wonders for him. The film rests on the fragile shoulders of Sara Ali Khan and she doesn’t find it easy going. One can see she’s struggling to find a connection with the character she’s portraying. Her earnestness, her intensity can’t be denied however and she gamely ploughs on, despite the hurdles.

While it’s a laudable thing to make a film about lesser-known freedom fighters, more care should have been taken to round off the script. The production design and the VFX combine to give us old Bombay. Cinematography by Amalendu Chaudhary is also first rate. One of Usha Mehta’s nephews is director Ketan Mehta. We wonder why the noted filmmaker wasn’t approached to make a film on his aunt.

Watch Ae Watan Mere Watan to know a little more about a little-known chapter in India’s freedom struggle.