When you venture into 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey', you expect a wide canvas, spectacular visuals, sense of euphoria, high octane drama, some thrilling moments and of course apt amount of detailing. Reason being that the film comes from Ashutosh Gowariker who has to be the only contemporary film maker to have made three period/historical flicks (Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar and now KHJJS) in one single decade.
Thankfully, most of these expectations are met as you get to understand the 'sur' of the film within first 20 minutes itself. A bunch of kids trying to get hold of their playing ground from the British, a bunch of revolutionaries choosing aggressive rather than suppressive measures to gain independence and the entire small town setting where this revolution is taking a quiet but definite shape. All of this makes you confident that there is something big definitely on the anvil.
But wait, this 'something big' doesn't happen overnight. Instead of the film taking a fast forward thrilling route, it moves ahead on a more understated dramatic path as months of strategic drive go into the entire exercise. Some of the highlight scenes in this part of the film are the entire recruitment drive with the teenagers, drawing down of plans, fund collection, procurement of artifacts - all of this takes close to one hour of the film which is totally justified as KHJJS takes a realistic, yet entertaining route.
However, there is a minor hiccup here. The romantic layer seems unnecessary in the bigger scheme of things. Abhishek-Deepika getting closer to each other and Sikandar-Vishakha love story along with a couple of songs could have been avoided.
Nevertheless, one still continues to be held on to the narrative due to the anticipation of plans to be materializing into action. A word of caution here though. Expectations around a 'Border' kind of a saga where narrative turns all-action with cries of 'Bharat Maata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' won't be fair in case of KHJJS. That's because the film goes beyond one single act of revolution (which lasts 30 odd minutes) with rest of the movie actually telling a story post this act.
Escape from the spots of attack, further confrontation with the British, revolutionaries finding themselves in a helpless state, their emotional turmoil, their subsequent arrest followed by torture - all of this makes sure that Gowariker has a lot more to tell in KHJJS than just an action tale.
The film wouldn't have been what it is if not for some very good selection of actors. Abhishek is quite good in a part which is understated and doesn't even attempt to hog the limelight. He is well supported by Sikandar Kher who could have got a lengthier role but leaves an impression especially in his scenes towards the second half.
Maninder has a meaty part and is a complete natural. So is Samrat Sen who looks convincing as well along with Feroz Wahid Khan and the man who plays the accountant. Vishakha gets good enough screen time to make her presence felt. On the other hand Deepika Padukone, just like Abhishek, underplays her character part though her character almost disappears in the second half of the film.
As for the teenagers, they are perfectly cast of the film, something which is apparent in the way their faces and characterization remains with you even as the end credits start rolling. This is also made possible as actual photographs of close to two dozen odd revolutionaries are displayed on screen once the film comes to an end, hence adding further authenticity to the entire tale.
In nutshell, 'Khelein Hum Jeen Jaan Sey' turns out to be one of those rare outings where patriotism has been brought alive on screen without a jingoistic route being taken. A film that deserves to be seen to know the tale of unsung heroes, it entertains while also conveying loud and clear that there is a lot more that went into achieving freedom of the country than what one gets to see in traditional and age old history books.