Synopsis – Bhuj the pride of India is a story about 300 Gujarati women who helped the Indian Airforce during Bangladesh and Pakistan War.
My Take – Like Shershaah which released a few days ago to celebrate India’s 74th Independence day this film, which marks the feature directorial debut of Hindi TV serial producer/director Abhishek Dudhaiya, also aims to celebrate the teamwork, courage and valor of the Indian army by retelling a truly stirring event set during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
During which the Pakistan Air Force bombed Bhuj’s IAF airstrip along with the two pivotal bridges that connected Kutch to the mainland. And with the urgency to make the airstrip functional again in order to thwart a larger, looming attack from the Pakistan army, Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik took the help of 300 women from the local village of Madhapar to reconstruct the airbase.
This act of resilience was a pivotal moment which not only boosted the morale of the army, but also helped to combat the Pakistani invasion. While this story has as all the elements to create a compelling war film, however, the end result is far from anything inspiring or remotely entertaining.
Mainly as director Abhishek Dudhaiya and his co-writers Raman Kumar, Ritesh Shah and Pooja Bhavoria are more busy pandering the film’s stars and throwing everything they known into a formulaic narrative like battles in the skies and ground, hyper-nationalistic speeches, misplaced songs and Pakistan bashing, all the while missing out on the emotional heft behind the the true story.
While Shershaah steered cleared from jingoism, this film’s whole base is centered on useless chest-thumping and caricature portrayals, making it a clear front-runner for one of the worst films of 2021. The women of Madhapar and the Indian army heroes truly deserved a better film.
Set in 1971, the story follows IAF Squadron leader Vijay Karnik (Ajay Devgn), who watched in horror as Pakistani air crafts lay waste to Bhuj air force base of which he is the commanding officer. Tasked with rebuilding the decimated airstrip as quickly as possible in order to facilitate the landing of an aircraft piloted by Flight Lieutenant Vikram Singh (Ammy Virk) consisting of a squadron of 500 soldiers who are to join the stationed army of 120 men, led by Military Officer Ram Karan Nair (Sharad Kelkar) and assisted by Indian Army Scout Ranchordas Pagi (Sanjay Dutt), to fight the incoming ground invasion from Pakistan.
With all his contracts and engineers dispersed following the attack, Karnik turns to Sunderben (Sonakshi Sinha), seeking help from her and 300 woman of the village of Madhapar to reconstruct the strip overnight as threat from the enemy continues to loom from the sky and the ground.
Right from the first scene the film makes itself a great example of how not to make a war film. Nothing prepares us for the sheer volume of clumsiness and mediocrity that the film so proudly displays. Backed by terrible writing, uninspiring acting, and mediocre visual effects, the level of cinematic liberty the film takes gets unbearable as the minutes pass by. Clocking at just around 110 minutes, the haywire narration never lets you enjoy the pace, which is too fast to consume the over-the-top drama it serves as a slider.
The film is not just badly written but also has choppy editing. Director Abhishek Dudhaiya has helmed about 1000-odd episodes on television, and the impact is clearly visible here as the film adds on unimportant scenes into an already jarring narrative. The film plays out like an at least three decade old Bollywood action entertainer where action sequences, shrill rendition of dialogues, and songs pop up at regular intervals.
Even Shershaah had some of the usual army-film clichés, but this entire film is an army-film cliché. A scene conveniently registers of a fighter pilot mentioning about his old mother’s knee surgery & he gets killed in the immediate next one.
I can totally see how the makers wanted to apply the ‘Tanhaji’ formula here by adding masala to an existing period-drama genre, only to fail miserably this time around. The story of how the women were mobilized to help the army is also reduced to high-pitched dialogues and a bhajan. Also the Pakistani characters sporadically break into complicated Urdu terms in the middle of proper Hindi sentences just to reiterate that they are Muslim.
While purporting to honor our brave soldiers the film actually insults the entire army by deploying laughable CGI for the aerial and ground battle scenes that I’ve ever seen in a war film. I found myself laughing at the elaborate aerial stunts that the Indian and Pakistan fighters’ jets are shown to be embroiled in, exchanging missiles back and forth generously but missing the target predictably.
Performance wise, Ajay Devgn’s swag does little for the film, add to that the uncalled-for melodrama takes away any impact created by his performance. Sanjay Dutt seems to having fun with himself, even getting his own Jon Snow moment in the film. Sonakshi Sinha is wasted with her character supporting just one sub-plot and that too, a weak one. Ammy Virk marred by a pretty unidimensional character fails to leave a mark with his performance.
Sharad Kelkar tries to make something of this nothingness. Nora Fatehi is a miscast, while Pranitha Subhash who plays Karnik’s wife does not get even a single dialogue. On the whole, ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’ is a clumsily punctuated war drama that is loud, jingoistic, irrational and borderline ridiculous.
Directed – Abhishek Dudhaiya
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 114 minutes