Everything about the incident deserves to be told, but clearly not in the manner Director Abhishek Dudhaiya tells it
1971 Indo-Pak war and the formation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan. There’s so much from this war that has come out. In the form of films, we’ve had Border, 1971, and more recently Raazi and The Ghazi Attack. What Bhuj:The Pride of India shows is equally important, less known and a true reflection of courage of many people involved across battle fronts. But this film is a clear case of an opportunity wasted. The film does nothing for the sentiment of pride or justifying the valour. The film is majorly plastic.
Watch the trailer here:
Set during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, it is about the life of IAF Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik, the then in-charge of the Bhuj airbase who, with his team, reconstructed the IAF airbase with the help of 300 women from the local village Madhapar. All this to stop Pakistani army to capture Bhuj.
It is written by Dudhaiya, Raman Kumar, Ritesh Shah and Pooja Bhavoria. It’s a great story idea. Indeed. A story that should have been told long back. A feeling that evokes respect for Indian Army, Indian Air Force and local villagers who plunged into the battlefield to help the nation in need. But an idea is as good as its execution. And here the execution is bland, fake, artificial, and uninteresting.
The only good thing remains that things happen fast and you feel some thrill. The situation is about time and the characters are actually pitted against the clock. For the same reason, the film also isn’t too long. Good thing. But right from the opening sequence, you are asked to dive deep into childish and utterly fake VFX, with no ounce of realism. Everything happens on a computer system and a green screen studio. That’s a problem only because it shows.
There’s no doubt that real people involved in the operation were courageous, beyond our imagination. But an unnecessary emphasis on their heroism takes the audience away from connecting with them. Dramatic dialogues add to the woes that make deadly situations poetic. Rest all your blame on additional dialogues by Manoj Muntashir, who wrote dialogues thinking this was also an episode of Indian Idol and he was called to accentuate the feel. Two scenes- Sharad Kelkar infusing motivation in his soldiers and Ajay Devgn seeking help from villagers- have been let down by the cheesy dialogues by Muntashir, for they just don’t fit there.
What is good about the film that you get a sense of what would have happened in 1971 in Bhuj. Gruesome, thrilling, raw. It is not only about one force or one set of people. And you develop a sense of pride for people involved. The actors in the film or the narrative doesn’t do that.
The film is also not tailored well. Going back and forth always doesn’t prove right. If it does resort to the technique, there should be synergy. Any scene appears here anytime, in a way that you get confused how and why this scene appeared. You may also feel the need to go back on the portal to revise.
The film has references to the events shown in Border, Raazi and The Ghazi Attack and you connect the dots. The film is painted with in-your-face jingoism rather than the optimum amount of patriotism. And that’s where you feel let down. The tricolour does hit the right chords. But its placement in almost every frame reduces its value in fervour. It clearly lacks conviction- not only in the making aspect but also the emotional appeal behind it. After watching the film, you realise you could have read about the event on internet and felt more strongly for the soldiers of the nation.
Ajay Devgn is a great actor. But not here. He’s loud and unnecessarily emotional. Even his body language doesn’t suit the character. He doesn’t look like an IAF officer for sure.
Sanjay Dutt is good. He has a strong character and he does the job fine. It’s not a picture of great acting skills. His presence does the work.
Sharad Kelkar is good in scenes where he doesn’t have to shout out loud. The moment he gives a war cry or motivating the soldiers, Muntashir appears and you big adieu to Kelkar. You never want that to happen.
Sonakshi Sinha is also loud. She has a strong role, although small in terms of runtime. It’s a case of misfit casting. It’s a good feeling when you see Nora Fatehi getting a role to act. She has a fairly decent role early on in the film and she does fine. You like her.
Amy Virk is also just okay, not great. His screen presence though is more appealing than the others put together.
Music lets the film down to a great deal, except the song Des Mere. But sadly, it comes in the end and all the damage in your minds has been done by then. Chances are that you’ll stop streaming by the time the song appears. Background score by Amar Mohile is fairly satisfactory. Infact this department gives you a sense of how tough the situation would have been in 1971.
Cinematography by Aseem Bajaj is plain and not good, to say the least. The shots aren’t appealing enough, to instil that sense of pride for our soldiers and disgust for Pakistani ones. Mostly, it is VFX. That too lying low on quality. Production design by Narendra Rahurikar could be so much better in terms of how the sets are constructed. They lack realism and seem out of imagination after reading a fantasy novel.
Editing by Dharmendra Sharma works only in terms of rendering pace to the film. It is one of the weakest points of the film and also why the film fails to make the impact. The transitions and cuts makes the film confusing- not a good sign for such a film. Major chunks and portions just appear randomly without actual context, so much so that the coherence is never achieved. They are although connected to the scheme but their placement is poor.
If a film works for its idea, this is beyond every film that’s come out lately. But that’s not the case. It’s a film that will start to sting you just 5mins into it. Bhuj chapter from 1971 war still goes missing in the pages of important history of India.