Nanak Shah Fakir: Film Review- A film that encapsulates the essence of Sikhism

Nanak Shah Fakir is a unique film, probably the first documenting the work and travails of the Sikh leader, Guru Nanak. The film follows the life of the Guru from his birth, to his travels across land and sea, while spreading his message of “Ek Onkar” (the belief that there is one God). The film is narrated through the voice of the Guru’s friend, disciple and companion, Mardana, a Muslim fakir. 

The film wastes no time setting the story up, and begins with the birth of Nanak. The film traces Nanak’s journey to become one with God, and how he becomes the Guru Nanak. Skilfully crafted, the audience never once sees Nanak’s face, in keeping with the tradition. Using CGI, Guru Nanak has been portrayed from the back, surrounded by a halo of divine light. 

What deserves a special mention is the lack of dialogue in the film. Instead, the makers decided to convey Guru Nanak’s thoughts, emotions and ideas through shabads, which are short songs. Music plays a prominent role, with soulful hymns and sufi melodies interspersed throughout the film. The highlights of the film remain the music and selected performances by cast members. With sound design by Oscar winner Resul Pookutty and a soul-stirring background score by Tuomas Kantelinen, Guru Nanak comes to life with the shabads. Sung by legendary Padma awardees, Pandit Jasraj and Bhai Nirmal Singh, the songs are moving. The plot is sound, and traces Guru Nanak’s life as Nanak, a young boy and takes us to the point where he becomes the Guru Nanak. Another aspect which is commendable is the set design, which was realistic and slightly reminiscent of Jodhaa Akbar. Arif Zakaria, Adil Hussain and Tom Alter deliver short, but refined performances.

However, one critical flaw that mars the film is the sheer length of it. Some songs seem unneccesary at times, and some moments seem drawn-out. Also, supporting actresses Shraddha Kaul and Puneet Sikka deliver non-convincing acts and seem to maintain more or less the same expression throughout the film. 

Why Should You Watch The Film?
A biopic on Guru Nanak is rare, especially one that is done convincingly. Watch it if you like a historical connect and want to learn more about the Sikh faith!

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