The film is based on the life and beliefs of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism and the first of the Sikh Gurus, whose teachings can be found in the Guru Granth Sahib. Nanak travelled across the length and breadth of undivided India and beyond to spread the message of Ik Onkar (One God), a central tenet of Sikh religious philosophy.
The movie chronicles the journey of Nanak, who was born to Hindu parents in a village called Talwandi in Punjab. While his elder sister Bibi Nanaki (Puneet Sikka) and local landlord Rai Bular (Adil Hussain) recognised Nanak's divine qualities the moment he was born, his accountant father took longer to acknowledge his godly ways. Owing to his teachings that propagated equality and selflessness, Nanak was called 'guru' by his followers (Sikhs).
Very rarely do you come across Indian biopics that are made on an epic scale, with its heart in its right place. Nanak Shah Fakir is one of them. Even if you are remotely fascinated by Sikhism, you must watch this one for its substantial content, spellbinding locations, impressive production values, stunning cinematography, good performances, outstanding storytelling and a mesmerising background score.
Painstakingly made, the film has this unique ability to connect with the believers as well as the non-believers, and there lies its beauty. Interestingly, despite its subject, thanks to a balanced narrative, Nanak Shah Fakir doesn't sound preachy or come across as a propaganda film. It manages to inspire, arouse compassion and strike a spiritual chord. Arif Zakaria deserves a special mention for his brilliant portrayal of Mardana, the first follower and longtime companion of Guru Nanak. He is also the narrator here.
However, while the film emerges as a clear winner in most departments, the length and shoddy makeup cannot be excused. The story is stretched way too much, tiring you to the extent that you feel like you have scaled the Himalayas yourself.
Note: Keeping the sensitivity of the subject, Guru Nanak has been portrayed through computer graphics. His face is not shown either.