Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 9, 2007

Patriot games

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 6:46 pm

March 09, 2007

Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Deepak Dobriyal, Manav Kaul, Ravi Kissen

Director: Amrit Sagar

1971, directed by debutant Amrit Sagar, is a film centered on a group of six Indian prisoners of war (POW) who make a courageous and daring escape from a camp in Pakistan where they’ve been held for six years after the Indo-Pak war of 1971.

A well-intended film that’s held together by a solid screenplay by Piyush Mishra, the problem with 1971 is its amateurish direction. The film’s got its heart in the right place and that’s made abundantly clear 10 minutes into the story but for the longest time it’s impossible to figure out exactly what is going on because it’s so carelessly directed and so loosely edited.

The film’s first half, actually, is a test of your patience considering you’re expected to make sense of so many random scenes that have been slapped together arbitrarily without point or purpose. It’s about halfway through the picture that you begin to settle comfortably into your seat because that’s how long it takes to suck you into the plot.

When a group of six POWs figure out that Pakistan’s military is hiding them without the knowledge of the Red Cross or the Human Rights Commission, they decide to make a dash for it, encountering innumerable obstacles on their journey back to the other side of the LOC. Despite the outcome of their mission, in many ways 1971 is about the triumph of the human spirit, it’s about courage and determination, about brotherhood and unity. The point is driven home, but it’s a pity the director adopts a jingoistic approach to do his job.

Performing their scenes and delivering their dialogues with that heightened sense of drama, several actors give the impression there’s a cash prize for the most theatrical performance. If there was one, it would be divided between the two actors who play the sparring Pakistani military officers who give the term ‘hysterical’ a whole new meaning.

But in all fairness, there are three performances that stand out from among the crowd because they’re so inspired and applause-worthy. Manoj Bajpai playing Major Suraj Singh is in great form, he holds back mostly and in the process, constructs a character that says more with his eyes than with words. Delivering equally magnificent performances in this film are two newer actors, Omkara’s Deepak Dobriyal and relative unknown Manav Kaul who play Flight Lieutenants Gurtu and Ram respectively. Both infuse rare spontaneity and rawness into their characters which resonate in every scene that they’re in.

With a sharper eye looking over the film, 1971 could have turned out a gut-wrenching drama that questions our apathy towards a still-very-relevant issue. But because it only half-achieves the potential of a promising script, I’m going to give it two out of five for its noble intentions but its average achievement. For its last 30 minutes alone, 1971 may just be worth a watch after all.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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