If a list of the handful of war films made in India is drawn up, Border will undoubtedly find itself somewhere at the top. JP Dutta mixed patriotism, emotions, melodrama and music into a winning formula. He reused it in his LOC Kargil and does so again in the latest, Paltan. Obviously, it can’t be equally potent each time, even though, Dutta shakes the right nationalistic chemicals into the beaker.
One does cheer for the real soldiers fighting at the front under tough conditions, but these ripped action figures that Dutta conjures up may look all macho and gym trained, but sound as if a bad Bollywood scriptwriter was telling them what to say amidst the gunfire and dust of the battleground.
Paltan, starring Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhary, Luv Sinha and Siddhanth Kapoor, is based on a real encounter between India and China in 1967. This was a triumph soon after India had lost the Indo-China war in 1962, and Dutta believes — rightly so — that this story needs to be told. Maybe just not in his noisy paint-by-numbers style.
Indian soldiers stationed at the border in Nathu La in Sikkim want to avenge the 1962 defeat and teach those evil Chinese a lesson. The Chinese are all cartoonish; the Indians are all brave and honourable. They are characters we know from other movies — as the film keeps cutting to their personal lives, perhaps to humanise the almost robotic soldiers shouting, ‘Sarvada Shaktishali’ as they face the enemy.
Major General Sagat Singh (Jackie Shroff) orders Lt Col Rai Singh Yadav (Arjun Rampal) to head the Rajput Battalion and protect the Nathu La Pass, as the Chinese blatantly encroach on Indian territory. The two sides exchange words and stones, squabble over a fence; it takes too long to come to the real battle scenes, where Dutta finally shows his skill.
A generic war film cannot be said to be entertaining, but it could be watched as a tribute to the men who risk their lives to protect our borders.