New Delhi: The film Bhuj: The Pride of India, that released on 13 August on Disney+ Hotstar, was supposed to be a movie inspired from a true event of the 1971 war, of course with cinematic liberties.
But the film, directed by Abhishek Dudhaiya and starring Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharad Kelkar, Ammy Virk and Norah Fatehi is nothing but a cringe-inducing film with little resemblance to the true event, riding high on pure macho hyper nationalism with lots of blood, gore, killings and fiery patriotic dialogues.
Just 10 minutes into the film, I realised it was going to be a disaster, and an example of everything that can go wrong with an Indian war movie.
The makers clearly have little understanding of how the IAF operates. And so you have Squadron Leader Vijay Kumar Karnik, the Commanding Officer of the Bhuj Air Base, played by Ajay Devgn, not just operating an anti-aircraft gun and shooting down multiple Pakistani fighter aircrafts, but also driving a truck and road roller and killing dozens of gun-totting Pakistani spies with his punches and kicks, while wearing sunglasses in a darkened room. Of course, he had the lid of a cooking pot to deflect the bullets fired at him.
And not to miss is the scene in which Devgn gets knocked down by a falling bomb and is unconscious. He regains consciousness when energy waves created by another bomb explosion close to him goes over his cheeks.
‘Filmy’ fights and flimsy dialogues
The most bizarre scene is that of Devgn driving a truck on the tarmac to help an AN 12 transport aircraft land, since its front wheel has conked off. The transport aircraft lands with its front under carriage on the truck. The simple logic that the four-wheeled truck cannot take the weight of an aircraft, or the speed at which it comes to land, has flown away in the wind.
Not to be left behind is Sanjay Dutt, who plays the character of a RAW asset who kills at least about a Company (100 soldiers) of the Pakistani Army in a trench with just his hands and a small axe.
Of course, Pakistani soldiers had no rifles or pistols to shoot him as they seemed to have come to the war bare-handed.
To top it all, the movie also has a Sikh fighter pilot who gets shot down over the sea and a few scenes later can be seen walking out of the waters onto a beach with the burning jet in the background. He is then seen flying a transport aircraft. The director thinks perhaps that anyone who can fly a fighter, can fly anything.
And then you have Sonakshi Sinha, always dressed up, dancing and playing drums and spitting out nationalist dialogues, and killing a leopard with a sickle in one hand, as she holds her baby in the other.
Even the flimsy dialogues on military matters have been written without any thought. ‘Missile se helicopter tod diya hai” is an example. As if the helicopter was a dam or a bridge which has been broken.
Film got the aircraft right but everything else wrong
The only saving grace of the movie was that they got the MiG 21 fighters, AN 12 transport aircraft and the Pakistani Sabre jets right. The rest of the movie was a disaster from a military point of view and completely opposite to what really happened in the 1971 War.
To begin with, Air Marshal Bharat Kumar (Retd), a military historian, explains that the Bhuj airbase was actually a decoy airfield for the main operating base which was Jamnagar.
“Then Wing Commander Peter Maynard Wilson (who retired as a Group Captain) was commanding the bomber squadron at Jamnagar. To hoodwink the Pakistanis, he set up radars and communication systems at the Bhuj airfield to project it as an active base. Pakistanis targeted it thinking that it was a main base,” the retired Air marshal told ThePrint.
Told about the scene that an AN 12 actually landed on a truck in the film, the Air Marshal burst out laughing.
The fact is that no such incident happened in the 1971 War or thereafter.
Also, the AN 12 is shown as carrying 450 soldiers. As a matter of fact, the largest transport aircraft in use with the IAF, C 17, can carry only about 180-odd soldiers.
And as Air marshal Kumar said, no transport aircraft landed in Bhuj. Even if the film makers wanted to bring in fiction, they should have done it with some knowledge of aircraft and air operations.
The women of Bhuj
Forget the military aspects, the movie could not even bring out the heroic efforts of the 300 women who braved Pakistani bombing raids and prepared the runway.
In 2010, one of the women involved in the operation told The Times of India that they had covered the air strip with cow dung to camouflage it from enemy planes.
Another woman had narrated how they used to wear pale green saris to camouflage themselves and would hide in bunkers when they heard sirens. She also explained how the woman toiled from dawn to dusk to make optimum use of the daylight.
But the movie, despite being named after this heroic act, does not really focus on the women.
The movie is a disaster, especially since it follows films like Uri: The Surgical Strike and Raazi, which had pulled in audience because of fantastic screenplay, strong performances by the actors and a realistic presentation.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)