“It’s time to let the British know that bravehearts exists in India too,” declares Akshay Kumar’s turbanned Sikh soldier in the trailer of Kesari, which was released on Thursday.

Directed by Anurag Singh (Jatt & Juliet, Disco Singh, Punjab 1984), Kesari is a dramatised version of the Battle of Saragarhi of 1897, in which, legend has it, 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army held their positions against 10,000 Afghani tribesmen. The attackers are described in the promotional material as “invaders”. The film is being sold as a patriotic drama with heaps of blood-drenched action.

Kumar plays the leader of the Sikh regiment, Havildar Ishar Singh, who motivates his men to guard the Saragarhi outpost and displays his bravado on the battlefield. “My turban is saffron, my blood is response, my response is saffron,” Ishar Singh bellows. The turbans have nifty circular blades in them, and even the swords appear to be magically lit from within.

Anurag Singh told the Mid-Day newspaper, “We referred heavily to Gurinder Pal Singh Josan’s book [The Epic Battle of Saragarhi]. He researched the subject for 25 years and was able to locate the families of the 21 martyrs. Amarinder Singh’s research on Saragarhi and The Defence of the Samana Forts came handy.” The event has also inspired the television serial 21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897, which is available on Netflix.

The cast includes Parineeti Chopra. Produced by Dharma Productions, Kesari will be released on March 21.

Kesari (2019).