If there is a movie in recent memory that I would recommend over all the other releases this year, it would be 1971. I applaud the filmmakers who brought this movie to reel life, and had the courage to tackle a subject that goes beyond the standard Yash Chopra popcorn fare. It does what a movie should do, which is open your eyes to the things that have gone on and are still going on in the world. It takes a movie like this to open the viewerâ€™s eyes and question the world around them. If the filmmakers had this in mind, then they have completely succeeded in creating a movie that not only entertains but also gets a stern message across without feeling preachy.
I have been a bit jaded towards Hindi war films in the past, as the action is not well choreographed and the characters are Black (with Pakistanis portrayed as being evil) and White (the Indian soldiers who are the heroes in the extreme). The director and screenwriter of 1971 have found a balance between the two, leaving it up to the viewer to make a judgment as to the guilt of the Pakistani soldiers and government in the story.
Itâ€™s another matter altogether that the movie was pretty much ignored all over India. Itâ€™s especially disconcerting since the movie has a very important message to convey, that of the missing POWs that are still reportedly being held in Pakistan and their unknown fate.
I was not old enough to remember the war of 1971 which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, though I have heard my parents talk of it. After watching the movie and in the process of writing this review, I was driven to do more research into this important part of Indian history. The one thing I found out is that the movie seems to be solidly based on fact. Though, the war is long over, over fifty of Indiaâ€™s POWs have still not returned. They have never been heard from again.
The movie picks up six years after the end of the war in 1971. The Red Cross is breathing down the Pakistani governmentâ€™s neck as relatives and human rights activists are visiting various prisons to determine if there are any Indian POWs left in the country. Unbeknownst to them, the government has rounded up the remaining prisoners and detained them at a prison camp located in Multan, Pakistan. Six soldiers show the meaning of hope, love for their country and their desire for freedom by escaping the camp. Now with the Pakistani soldiers desperate to keep things quiet and hot on their trail, the soldiers led by Major Suraj Singh (Manoj Bajpai) must fight the enemy and dangerous terrain to reach the Indian border.
First time director Amrit Sagar has shown that he has an excellent eye presenting this subject in a way that is both entertaining and informative. He has an excellent future ahead of him, provided he gets the opportunity. His attention to detail and the care in which he portrays the sensitive subject matter shows that he had a vested interest in making a film that would open the audienceâ€™s eyes. He has portrayed the characters hopes, dreams, and patriotism in a wonderfully subtle way.
The movie has an excellent ensemble cast headed by Manoj Bajpai, who once again proves why he is one of Indiaâ€™s best actors. He plays Major Suraj Singh expressing the strength and frailty of his characterâ€™s all too human fears with excellent finesse. Under the directorâ€™s able hands, Manoj conveys a quiet inner strength without resorting to becoming a one-dimensional super-hero who can defeat all the Pakistani soldiers all by himself. The characterâ€™s strength is conveyed by powerful facial expressions and dialogue delivery. His nuanced performance is the heart and soul of the movie. The viewer feels his hopes for the future and is disturbed by the prospect of this character not having a happy ending.
Ravi Kishan, Chitaranjan Giri, Kumud Mishra, Manav Kaul,Deepak Dobriyal, Piyush Mishra, and Vivek Mishra all play their parts to perfection. The screenplay takes itâ€™s time in developing each character so that you have a vested interest in following their stories to conclusion. Special mention must be made of actor Deepak Dobriyal whose portrayel of Flight Lt. Gurtu showcases the fate of the everyman in a dangerous situation.
Piyush Mishra has written a gripping and brilliantly written screenplay. He can be seen in the film portraying the Pakistani helicopter pilot who doesnâ€™t quite agree with his government, but must follow their orders. His portrayal is very important in giving humanity to the other sideâ€™s soldiers and helps in giving them some dimension rather than portraying them as one-dimensional evil villains.
Itâ€™s hard not to mention the performances of all the six leads, as they have portrayed their characters with so much depth. Again, the director is to be commended for putting together this ensemble cast to bring to life his vision of the film.
Director Amrit Sagarâ€™s brother, who composed the theme song for the film at the ripe â€śoldâ€ť age of sixteen, handles the music. Highlights are the theme song, which is hauntingly operatic, and a Bhangra song that is sung by the soldiers when they are filled with false hope. Normally, music in these movies snaps the viewer out of the picture and lessens the seriousness of what is going on. In this movie, the two major songs blend in so well with the story that the viewer is never pulled out of the picture. The beautiful Bhangra song actually uses pots, spoons, and dishes as the percussion with vocals by Kailash Kher.
The film is a moving edge of your seat chase film that never sacrifices characterization for drama as it races to an emotional conclusion that will leave the viewer breathless. You will find yourself horrified by what happens to the characters and asking yourself, â€śHow could this happen?â€ť Followed by the question, â€śWhat can be done to help these missing soldiers?
Itâ€™s been a long time since I have been so moved by a Hindi film. The director and studio must be commended for putting together such a beautiful movie. At the end of the movie I found myself horrified that over fifty of our soldiers are still missing in action, having last been seen in the late eighties.
Do yourself a favor, make sure you watch and support this movie. Itâ€™s a question of supporting quality cinema, and I for one would hate to see a lack of support translate into the disappearance of movies such as this. Once you see the movie, go to www.1971thefilm.com to learn more about the plight of our missing POWs and to light a candle in their memory.