I am a great lover of Hindi cinema. And a great lover of the Indian Armed Forces too! (with a very soft corner for the Indian Air Force). So occasionally when filmmakers combine the two, it serves for me as icing on a cake. Of the ones I have seen, my thoughts on some “fauji” movies which stayed with me…..in no particular order.
Based on the Sino-Indian war of 1962, “Haqeeqat” relates the story of a platoon of Indian soldiers posted in the hilly terrain of Ladakh. A young officer-Dharmendra as Captain Bahadur Singh goes to rescue them and as they are surrounded by the Chinese army. Over the course of the film, Bahadur Singh and his shyly smiling love-Angmo –Priya Rajvansh lay down their lives in the attempt to save the platoon. The retreating soldiers too go down fighting valiantly as they are heavily outnumbered by the Chinese.
When written down in a paragraph of 86 words, the story seems a little matter of fact. An inaccurate précis of a war fought over treacherous terrain and difficult conditions. But listen to “Hoke majboor mujhe usne bhulaya hoga”- A song from the film and the reality of loss and will sink in. Picturised on the trapped platoon, the song bemoans the fact that the beloved has no choice but to forget him. For he will be gone and she must move on. She will destroy my letters, hide behind a brave smile but in her eyes will be awash with unshed tears and his memory will remain with her. The anguish, the pain. The despair. Of the loved ones and theirs.
As the film progresses, one lives through trials and tribulations they face-stoically as it is their duty. The stark, barren territory drives home the challenges they faced. And the farewell-“Kar Chale Ham Fida Jan-o-Tan Sathiyon, Am Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyon”- poignant, and brave. Bidding farewell but leaving a responsibility. Our time has come but keep the fight going. Let no evil force enter, keep the villains at bay. Lose no opportunity to protect your country. Let the mighty Himalaya not be bowed.
I saw “Haqeeqat” when I was 8. It was my subconscious awakening to the futility of war, patriotism and the bravery of soldiers. For at that age, these are mere words and only personal experience or a powerful visual medium such as cinema can bring home the reality. This film has remained etched in memory.
“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Another war movie-as are most films associated with the armed forces, Border is based on The Battle of Longewala, during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. The story of a band of soldiers of the Punjab Regiment who successfully and at the cost of their own lives, hold at bay a Pakistani Tank Regiment until re-enforcements arrive the next morning.
The camaraderie, the bond, the affection shared by these soldiers of the regiment is portrayed realistically by the stars—many of them. As is the bravery, grit and determination. And if you listen to the poignant “Sandese Aate Hain, Hame Tadpate Hain”….you realise that it is not only the soldier who makes the choice of sacrifice for the liberty and safety of his nation. There are others who we need to remember-A mother waiting for her son. A sweetheart. A bride.
“Lest I keep my complacent way I must remember somewhere out there a person died for me today. As long as there must be war, I ask and I must answer was I worth dying for?”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
The film is about the coming of age of a young Sikh man-Angad who amidst the confusion of adolescence and lack of direction as well as a strained relationship between his parents, decides upon the Indian Air Force as his option to carve out his career and identity. The title is about his struggle against and subjugation of his inner demons and uncertainties.
Directed by Govind Nihalani and starring stalwarts such as Shashi Kapoor, Rekha and Amrish Puri, the film has subtle undertones of religious harmony as well. Angad is played by Kunal Kapoor and his talent is matched evenly with a very simple and sweet Supriya Pathak-Anna.
This is perhaps the most realistic film ever on the IAF. Shot extensively in Air Force Station Pune, NDA and AFA Hyderabad, watching the film was much like viewing our own lives on celluloid.
When I think of Vijeta, I smile- at the romance between Angad and Anna. And again at the bond Angad’s father and Anna develop while they wait for him to return from the war.
Another coming of age film, yet again with war as part of its tale. Lakshya is the story of Karan Shergill, the younger son of a successful businessman, younger sibling to a well settled brother in the US and boyfriend to an activist girlfriend. Directionless and happy go lucky.
On a lark, he decides to appear for an army selection examination because a friend is doing so. He gets selected and joins up—only to run away from the strict discipline and tough training at the Academy. His frivolity and laid back attitude earn him severe reprimands and he decides to bail out. However, overhearing his father’s “I told you he wouldn’t last there” statement and the disdain of his girlfriend spur him to return to the Academy , brave their further punishment and prove himself. He gets commissioned as an Army officer and is soon posted to Kargill. He is an exceptional officer and leads a successful mission to capture a critical vantage point Hrithik Roshan as Karan Shergill is utterly believable and very handsome indeed-especially in the officer avatar. Preity Zinta is the activist and ultimately Journalist Romi. His love.
The movie for me was special for the metamorphosis of Karan from the laid back aimless youngster to the stiff, correct and focussed young officer, who had fortunately found his calling in life. For many youngsters drift into unsuitable professions for lack of will, information or guidance and often miss their chance of self discovery altogether. The transition of Karan from light-hearted youngster to the starched Lieutenant Shergill reminded me in so many ways of a friend of mine from childhood who went on to NDA and the IAF thereafter. My pal suddenly turned into a model of good behaviour and politeness! Doors were held open etc. Most amusing! I remember asking his mother-“does he still call you mummy or is it Ma’am now?”
Memorable again it was for Romi and Karan’s love for each other-his hurt by her engagement to another, her’s a little apologetic for causing him grief. They rediscover each other amidst gun fire and war.
And for the tortured outburst of a young officer at his friends death at the hands of the enemy. Because for him, he had lost his best mate. Not a statistic to be reported by the media.
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
― Lou Holtz
This article was published by The Salute magazine in their November-December 2012 issue Volume 5, Issue 5 as “Lights , camera, salvo!”