Sam Bahadur – The Extraordinary Soldier

Vicky Kaushal has brought Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw to life, and the entire nation is proud of him for doing a wonderful job. He has lived a soldier’s life that many dream and aspire to.

People born after 1975, who constitute the major demography of the country today, may not know about Manekshaw’s achievements and traits. In India, we do not have many movies celebrating the achievements of our soldiers and generals.

In this movie, Vicky Kaushal was impeccable. Through his body language and mannerisms, he has literally put himself in the General’s shoes and lived the character. Instead of giving a typical stereotype review about the movie and the making, we need to understand what made Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw a brave soldier and tall leader who is relevant now as he was before and will be ever after.

From his training institute days, though he was mischievous and full of bravado, he was protective of his colleagues and never let his men down. He was plain-spoken and gutsy. The way he proposed to his would-be wife, Ms. Silloo Bode, is, in fact, a point to ponder for young men – the way he respected her in every aspect of life, and the lady’s courage and determination to stand by her husband as he rose through the ranks. The cute possessiveness expressed by her, even when the General got a call from Prime Minister Indira, was beautiful to watch.

When he was shot nine times in his torso, and the doctor had ambiguity about treatment, his jovial response, "a mule kicked me," shows the mental toughness and fighting spirit the man was made of. Another attribute of the General is the empathy and care he showed towards his men throughout his career. Foreseeing the threat, protecting his men, understanding the terrain, resources, logistics, and the enemy ahead of times made him a great General. During an official dinner, when a bureaucrat asked a young officer to bring something, the General ensured the bureaucrat understood who the young man was – an army man and not a server.

The unofficial friendly banter between his cook Swamy and the General shows how approachable and accommodative he was. During the court of inquiry on his framed malicious Anti-National charges, everyone in his family, friends, and the men he commanded were worried and anxious about the outcome since he had the moral conviction that he did not commit anything wrong. His famous quote, “I AM OK,” gives a lot of confidence and positivity to everyone.

During partition, his friend Yaya Khan, who was about to go to Pakistan during his farewell party, raised a toast "To the Army," while Sam Bahadur would raise it to "The Indian Army." This small act shows how committed and patriotic he was till his last breath.

He never budged to the pressure of red-tapism, politics, and bureaucracy. His displeasure for yes-men was evident when he shut the minister who asked him to accept the PM’s view. His integrity can be observed when he stopped Mrs. Gandhi from entering the war room as per protocol.

“Mehar Singh, who brought us back Manekshaw,” when there was a command not to bring back the injured and deceased to barracks as the troop size was less and they needed to hold the ground till they got reinforcement. But Mehar Singh, seeing his commander hit badly, took him to barracks. This shows the immense confidence the troop had in his commander.

He was a true commander-in-chief in every sense, from being friendly to giving an order and getting things done, ensuring obedience and discipline. The scene where the wife talks about their future son-in-law coming home to see them, and how he moves inside with a typical body language we know, and the click of the fingers to the pets to move inside, and the spontaneous response, was lifelike.

During a private audience with the PM, where Mrs. Gandhi had doubts about a coup being orchestrated, the General made it clear that he is a soldier committed to the nation and not interested in politics, which he lived up to till his last breath, exhibiting high ethical and moral standards.

He was an effective communicator; he always spoke plainly and called out spade to spade. Many could not stomach it until they understood him or the situation made them understand. The quality that comes from moral conviction and honesty.

Being a born military strategist, he could see through the entire situation in advance and act cohesively. Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, coming from an affluent Parsi family, chose a career that not many in his time would have. He rose through the ranks through the rough and tumble of five wars, battling bureaucracy, publicity, politics, and not having a slip in any aspect. He is a shining example of leadership.

Now, as the culture of schools taking kids to the movie hall has come down, every institution should consider showing this film to the younger generation. It exhibits true patriotism, valor, life, and leadership lessons alike.

Why restrict the life of Manekshaw to schools? It can very well be a B-School curriculum material.

N Saravanakumar, a Finance Professional and Director at The Verandah Club, blends his financial expertise with a passion for Indic Culture. As a Heritage Traveller, he navigates the intersection of finance and cultural exploration with finesse.

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