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Film / Kesari

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Kesari (Saffron) is a 2019 war movie depicting the Battle of Saragarhi in 1897, during which 21 Sikh soldiers defended a fort against an attack by approximately 10,000 Afghan soldiers.

Kesari contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: During a punishment, the men eat some roosters, claiming that the birds ordered them to "cook," with the roosters clucking the first part of "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" sounding similar to the English word "cook." Ishar dresses down his men, ordering them to not eat, before storming off into a room...where he bursts out laughing.
  • All Are Equal in Death: A badly wounded Sikh says this almost verbatim.
  • All-Loving Hero: Ishar cares about everyone, whether that's the soldiers under his command or the Pashtuns that live in a village near him. He even orders Kuda Daad, the cook of the fort, not to fight but give water to all those injured, not just their own soldiers.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: The other forts are saved but all of the 21 are dead, and their bodies are shown while their most precious items are either looted by the Afghans or tossed aside. The credits do reveal how all of them were given the highest honor posthumously in the form of the British Order of Merit and that Parliament was silent for two minutes out of respect.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Gurmukh Singh, who is the youngest soldier in the fort, and has never killed a man before the battle starts. Ishar orders him to send messages about the battle rather than participate in it since he freezes up during the first volley.
  • Berserk Button: Do not try to take a Sikh's turban. They will kill you over it.
  • Cold Sniper: An Afghan sniper recurs throughout the film and delves into outright sadism, shooting a wounded Sikh in the leg to intimidate the rest of the Sikhs. Ishar finally deals with him partway into the siege.
  • Defiant to the End: Ishar is mortally wounded and barely able to move, but when Saidullah tries to touch his turban, he pulls out a small hidden dagger and stabs him to death with it.
    • Gurmukh calmly walks out of the burning tower on fire and screams his defiance in the face of the enemy.
  • Guns Akimbo: One Sikh does this with bolt-action rifles of all things.
  • Face Death with Dignity: All the soldiers, but special mentions to Ishar Singh, who dies after killing many soldiers holding the line by himself, and Gurmukh Singh, who screams out defiance and kills a few last warriors despite being on fire at the time.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Movie. The whole concept is 21 Sikh warriors standing between 10,000 Afghan soldiers who are trying to conquer the three forts.
  • Kick the Dog: Ishar orders Khuda Daad to give water to wounded and dying men on both sides instead of fight. He continues this even when the Afghans enter the fort at which point Saidullah beheads him, seemingly for no other reason than petulance.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The two Afghan leaders who mock the Sikhs, sneer at them, and show them disrespect, Mullah Saidullah and Gul Badshah, are killed by the Sikhs. Notable because the leader Khan Masud who shows them respect and orders no turban of the Sikhs to be touched is alive at the end.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: In real life, Gurmukh Singh killed over forty soldiers by himself before they set the tower on fire, which was the only way they could smoke him out without losing more men. Here he doesn't kill nearly as many before he's flushed out.
  • No Kill like Overkill: The second-to-last soldier killed is stabbed so many times by the Afghan horde that his body is literally propped up by all the swords stuck through him when the camera pulls back.
  • Off with Her Head!: The film opens with several Afghans preparing to behead a woman for running away from her husband, until Ishar Singh intervenes and triggers the events of the movie. She is later beheaded for real.
  • Out-Gambitted: There is a truce where both sides talk, which the Afghans try to take advantage of by sending several of their soldiers around to the back to blow up the west wall. Ishar has already foreseen this, and they not only take the two men hostage, they strap their own bombs to them in such a way that they go off when their robes are opened up back in their own camp.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: For the Afghans. They conquer the fort and kill all the soldiers, but it takes all day, ruining the element of surprise they were counting on to help them conquer the other two forts, and giving the soldiers there ample time to prepare for the imminent attack.
  • Sore Loser: Gul Badshah is so angry about the Pyrrhic Victory that he orders the tower lit on fire so he can hear the last soldier's screams as he burns alive. This doesn't go as planned...
  • Taking You with Me: Several of the soldiers do this, including one who grabs three soldiers when he is mortally wounded and flings himself off the battlement, causing the bomb one of them has to blow up on the ground instead. Gurmukh Singh in his Last Stand grabs hold of the Afghan leader Gul Badshah while he's on fire and uses himself to light a bomb the man is carrying, blowing them both up.
  • Worthy Opponent: Khan Masud certainly sees them as such. When Ishar manages to kill Mullah Saidullah with one of his last breaths, Khan reassures the man and orders his own men to not touch any soldiers' turbans.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Most of the Sikhs pull this at various points, with Ishar's final stand as the Afghans invade the fort being the climax of this.