Bhuj: The Pride Of India is an absolute disaster of a war film. It stumbles through a tangle of explosions, dogfights, and battlefield braggadocio without even pausing for a breather to let the viewer figure out what the hell is going on. In the film’s opening sequence, the hero’s Jeep collides with a ball of flames created by an enemy fighter plane that crashes in the middle of an Indian airfield, even though the injured Air Force officer is lying on the ground. He doesn’t write or moan. The narrative starts, and the voice belongs to him.
He emerges from the flames with only a scratch on his brow. The film isn’t as fortunate. It irreparably harms itself as it scrapes the bottom of the barrel in an attempt to propel itself out of the dilemma. The combat sequences, visual effects, pyrotechnics, overall acting tone, and writing quality all compete at the top of the sloppiness index.
Bhuj: The Pride Of India, directed and co-written by Abhishek Dudhaiya and currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar, is a fictionalized portrayal of an event from the 1971 India-Pakistan War. It tells the story of troops and citizens who repaired a bombed-out airstrip in one night. In the end, all the picture does is go toe-to-toe with all the principles of rational filmmaking.
The patriotic posturing of the soldiers who give ‘thundering’ lines about patriotism and heroism is riddled with clichés, with leading man Ajay Devgn driving the attack as Squadron Leader Vijay Srinivas Karnik. The true hero on whom the character is based is swiftly forgotten under a never-ending torrent of insults.
When the film places the emphasis entirely on the two top stars in the cast, you know it’s intended to be a Bollywood celebrity vehicle rather than an honest homage to the bravery of India’s defense forces. Sanjay Dutt, who plays an Indian peasant who may freely enter and exit Pakistan, gets a lot of screen time.
They are multi-talented men. They do everything from spying for the country and fighting alone against Pakistani forces to defusing time bombs and producing miracles in the face of overwhelming odds. Everyone else in Bhuj: The Pride Of India, including Sharad Kelkar, an actor with a voice that can cut through any noise, is crimson.
After more than an hour, the emphasis switches to a town where women outweigh males since the men are all away from their homes searching for a job in the metropolis. Contractors and suppliers to the government have fled in dread. As a result, the Squadron Leader (codenamed Maratha Baagh) asks the women’s assistance in reopening the runway. The film’s challenging portions never stop, no matter what the villagers do.
None of the ladies, especially Sonakshi Sinha as “Gujarat ki Sherni” Sunderben, who kills a leopard with her own hands, appear to be cut out for the position. They seem to be dressed for a local carnival. But all they need is a hazy pep talk from the courageous hero, who never tires of proclaiming that he is a Maratha, fearless and unconstrained. Neither the man’s appeals nor the village ladies’ subsequent actions help stabilize the shaky video.
Gujarat and Maharashtra are not the only states that take pride in the tribalism-peddling Bhuj: The Pride Of India. Kerala infiltrates via Colonel R.K. Nair (Sharad Kelkar). According to the video, this Madras Regiment commander comes from a community famed for its bravery and endurance, and he once broke a Pakistani boxer’s jawbone. Another issue is that none of his activities appear to back up his lofty statements.
There is the obligatory Sikh – fighter pilot Vikram Singh (Ammy Virk), who enjoys flying into danger – and the token Muslim, a daring spy Heena Rehman (Nora Fatehi), who is in Pakistan to take revenge on the death of her brother, also a brave secret agent, and to defend her homeland.
In a film that not only seems to enjoy itself in uncontrolled Pakistan-bashing but also openly promotes a very invidious form of Islamophobia, it is unavoidable that the troops and officials from across the border are just sitting ducks, comical caricatures waiting to be viciously walloped.
When the prospect of loss in Bangladesh shakes Pakistan President Yahya Khan, he tells his soldiers that his nation (a particular group) must do something extreme to retaliate against a people they have enslaved for four centuries. When the country’s forces are engaged on the eastern frontier, the stressed head of state devises a plan to strike India’s western front.
Pakistan’s top intelligence operator apprehends an Indian spy. But this being a Bollywood film. Therefore the man has no chance because he is a Pakistani who mumbles banalities, and the spy is a Hindustani who swears by her motherland’s everlasting loyalty. The latter is acceptable, but anybody attempting to make a credible film based on actual events must maintain a sense of balance. Bhuj: The Pride Of India’s creators does not.
As if that weren’t terrible enough, the Bhuj airbase commanding officer would have us think that women are to be admired because they can mend anything from broken shirt buttons to shattered souls. To further emphasize his misogyny, he remarks in another context that a woman’s most valued asset is her house.
Pranitha Subhash, who portrays the officer’s wife, has only a cameo part, which pretty well sums up this incompetent, gender-insensitive picture. Although the action took place in 1971, surely a guy looking to a community full of women for help when the chips are down should know better than determining what should be done unilaterally.
There is virtually nothing in Bhuj: The Pride Of India that makes any sense. If there is anything worse than the performances in this film, it is the writing. As a result, the lead actor’s “best” line is “Main marne ke liye jita hoon mera naam hai sipahi” (I live to die, I am a soldier).
It’s no surprise that the picture is a flop from the start. Sadly, when the explosions start, which is from scene one, common reason goes out the window. For the next two hours, Bhuj: The Pride Of India will be busy gathering the scattered fragments of its vapid ideas, which have been made immensely worse by stubbornly ham-fisted handling. There is nothing to be proud of.
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