Movie Review: 1971 ...

By Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM

imagePost L.O.C., LAKSHYA, DEEWAAR and AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYO, Indo-Pak themes, especially those that abound in jingoism and indulge in Pak-bashing, are shunned by moviegoers in India and the Asian community abroad.

But 1971 is different…

It narrates the story of Indian war prisoners across the border who break free and set out on a perilous journey to their motherland. The film succeeds in highlighting the plight of P.O.W.s who have been languishing in Pakistani jails/camps, leading a life of anonymity.

Sure, 1971 is about India and Pakistan. But the film is not about war per se. It begins in 1977 in Multan [Pakistan], six years after India and Pakistan had fought a war and throws light on Indian defense personnel who long to be free, pine to return to their motherland, to their families.

The film raises a pertinent question/issue that remains unresolved to this date: Why are Indian defense personnel still being held captive in Pakistan?

If the subject material of 1971 moves you on a humanitarian level, the handling of the subject succeeds in bringing the core issue to the forefront. For those who’re completely clueless about one of the after-effects of wars, 1971 serves as a complete eye-opener.

It’s often said that the best of stories/concepts evaporate into thin air if entrusted in wrong/incompetent hands. Thankfully, 1971 does justice to the material. After you’ve watched 1971, you can’t help but conclude that debutante director Amrit Sagar is a brilliant storyteller.

Certain films should never be adjudged on the basis of their box-office evaluation. They’re beyond box-office. 1971 is one of those films. Well researched and painstakingly captured on celluloid, 1971 is a brave effort by all counts. It opens your eyes to a fact that many of us never knew existed.

As a cinematic experience, 1971 is a must for every moviegoer who craves for a break from the humdrum masala that unfailingly hits the screens week after week. But more importantly, watch 1971 for those who protect and guard our nation so that we, the commoners, can sleep peacefully.

This one deserves a salute!

A band of six Indian prisoners of war -- Major Suraj Singh [Manoj Bajpai], Captain Jacob [Ravi Kissen], Subedar Ahmed [Chitaranjan Giri], Captain Kabir [Kumud Mishra], Flight Lt. Ram [Manav Kaul] and Flight Lt. Gurtu [Deepak Dobriyal] -- decide to make the most daring escape from a Pakistani camp to the Indian border. What ensues is a gut-wrenching chase, across the unyielding terrain, where these men brave inhuman weather conditions and the constant threat of the Pakistani officials on the hunt for the P.O.W.s.

They have to rely in this dangerous mission on each other, their undying sprit and their love for their homeland.

1971 succeeds as a film primarily because it highlights the issue most convincingly. In fact, debutante director Amrit Sagar remains faithful to the subject and not once does the film deviate into sub-plots or gets into the flashback mode to depict the background of the six protagonists. Also, let’s get this right, this one’s no documentary, it’s an engaging cinematic experience.

Generally, ‘war movies’ fall into one of two categories: Heroic tales of glory and valor or biopics. 1971 is neither. Instead, it’s a tale of human courage and sacrifice. It’s a gripping, disturbing and powerful film.

The first hour of 1971 is entirely devoted to establishing the characters and gives the viewer a fair idea of the plight of P.O.W.s languishing in Pakistani jails/camps. Sure, it takes time to get involved in the goings-on because, as a film, 1971 enters a seldom-entered territory. In fact, things don’t perk up till minutes before the intermission, before the explosion takes place.

Post-interval, 1971 comes into true form. The five P.O.W.s escape from the Pakistani camp, located close to the L.O.C. and from thereon, it’s one riveting experience. The wild chase that ensues and the outcome to the story leave you stunned and speechless.

The grit and determination of the P.O.W.s is inspiring. The Pakistani armed forces comb the streets and hills, searching for the escaped Indians and the entire second hour, right till the finale, takes your breath away. The death of four of five protagonists is brilliantly depicted. In fact, the confrontation at the L.O.C. and one of the P.O.W.’s body being dragged back to Pakistan are remarkably executed. Piyush Mishra’s brilliant writing coupled with the director’s execution is visible in every frame.

Amrit Sagar is a director to watch! The debutante has the courage to swim against the trend. Instead of taking the easy way out by making a masala film and padding it with stars, Amrit needs a pat for opting for an unconventional theme and casting actors, not stars. Besides, the director knows the grammar of film-making right. Not only is the content powerful [screenplay: Piyush Mishra], the film stands out in the technical departments as well.

Amrit gets major help from three other departments -- background music [Akash Sagar], cinematography [Chirantan Das] and thrills [Sham Kaushal]. Akash Sagar’s background score is exceptional and gives the film an international tinge. Chirantan Das’ camerawork is outstanding. Although a number of films have been shot at the picturesque Kullu-Manali, the film bears a stunning look. The hilly terrains and the snow-capped mountains have a sweeping effect. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes as well as the chase are topnotch. It wouldn’t be erroneous to state that the chase sequences are amongst the best witnessed on the Hindi screen.

Manoj Bajpai and Ravi Kissen may be the most known entities in its cast, but the film doesn’t belong to Manoj or Ravi alone. It belongs to all six protagonists. Manoj is in form after a long, long time. Sure, he is a fine actor, but the level of performance is very high this time. But the actor to watch out for is Kumud Mishra. There’s just one word to describe his performance -- Magnificent! Watch him in every sequence, with Manoj or with the other protagonists, and you’d agree that the actor can light fire in water!

Deepak Dobriyal, who proved his mettle in OMKARA, delivers yet another gem of a performance in this film. He is terrific. Manav Kaul is another talent that’s bound to go places. Extremely energetic and confident, the actor leaves a tremendous impact, especially in the pre-climax when he takes on the Pakistanis.

Ravi Kissen is perfect. After TERE NAAM, this is another performance that works because it is natural to the core. Chitaranjan Giri makes an impact in a brief role. Piyush Mishra is first-rate. The actress -- head of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan -- is commendable. The actor -- Pakistani Major -- is very good.

On the whole, 1971 is a well-made film with an excellent second half as its trumpcard. But there are four factors that go against it: Multiple releases this week and also next week, the examination period, the World Cup fever [cricket mania] and also the fact that the film bears a ‘war film’ look. Its fate, therefore, will depend on a strong word of mouth. Rating: 3.5

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