Film: “1971″; Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Ravi Kishan, Chittaranjan Giri, Manav Kaul, Kumud Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal; Director: Amrit Sagar; Ratings: **
War films are hard to make. More so in India where budgets are often as constrained as the director’s vision.
Director Amrit Sagar manages to make “1971″ look filled-out and believable, not just at the centre but also at the edges. The snowy Manali backdrop where the six protagonists negotiate a lethal game of cross-border politics, helps to keep the proceedings above the mound of mundane that’s often the fate of politically-driven movies.
Though the immediate impulse is to look at this fidgety-fingered flick as a didactic cross-border drama, Sagar and his crew, specially Chittranjan Das behind the compelling camera and Piyush Mishra in front with the energy-driven, profound dialogues, bring a quality of rhythmic ruggedness to the narrative.
Unlike the earlier star-studded prisoner of war (POW) drama “Deewar: Let’s Bring The Soldiers Home”, in which the characters seemed larger than the strife, here the characters constantly seem to be in sync with the drama.
The bonding among the six protagonists is admirably high-octane. None of the actors in this all-boys’ drama plays that self-defeating game of one-upmanship.
Each character jumps out of the screen with virile fidelity, creating breathing spaces within the crowded yet compact canvas in a way that makes the narrative gripping and thought provoking.
Ravi Kishan with his large, accusing eyes offsets Manoj Bajpai’s studied intensity. It’s good to see Manoj back in form after a while. He imparts a sense of imminent tension to the proceedings.
The rest of the cast is also effective, and not because they are not over-exposed faces, but because of their significant performances – a smooth synthesis of history and entertainment.
In recreating a rather poignant slice of India-Pakistan history as an adventure saga, the Sagars (producers) seem to have got their act right. A commendable tension is created out of a situation that could have lapsed into unnecessary didacticism.
“1971″ is a war film where the battle is often fought in places that aren’t immediately visible to the eye.