Film: Paltan

Director: J P Dutta

Cast: Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhary, Sonu Sood, Siddhant Kapoor, Luv Sinha, Monica Gill, Sonal Chauhan, Esha Gupta, Dipika Kakar

Ratings: *** (3)

Classics cannot be recreated. JP Dutta, veteran filmmaker known for his war films Border and LOC Kargil, could not succeed in bringing back the magic of the iconic war story, Border. Dutta, who brought the intensity and passion of patriotism into the cinema theatres, lacked in delivering the same this time with Paltan.

Paltan is based on the historic conflict between India and China in 1967, and a lesser known victory of the Indian Army. China was making its way into India to conquer Sikkim during this period and the Nathu La and Cho La clashes happened to prevent them from seizing it.

Also read: Know about the Nathu La and Cho La clashes of 1967 that inspired Paltan

The film begins with a flashback to the 1962 India-China war. The story then leaped to 1967, but references to the previous war, which India lost, kept reoccurring throughout the film. Indian war films usually never unveil the strategies and schemes of the Army. Paltan too featured only a few brief meetings among the platoon leaders to provide a mental picture of the forthcoming skirmish, and focussed more on the soldiers.

The first half of the film is made up of the soldiers’ bonding, which lacks both emotion and conviction. The film tries to tug at the audience’s heartstrings by constantly switching to the soldiers’ background stories and families in flashbacks. Women in the film, who play love interests of the lead actors, have brief screentime.

J P Dutta’s stellar cast comprising Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, and Gurmeet Chaudhary couldn’t lift the film to the level that was expected out of it. Arjun as Lt. Col Rai Singh and Sonu Sood as 2nd Lt Bhisen Singh literally lead the pack as soldiers as well as actors. Harshvardhan Rane, who plays the courageous Major Harbhajan Singh, puts in loads of effort to portray the valour of the real-life character on screen.

Slogans such as ‘No guts no glory, not legend no story’ and ‘Brother on my left, brother on my right, together we stand, together we fight’, which aimed to revive the spirit each time, would just make one think if the soldiers actually talked in such parlance.

Talking of the performances, the film disappoints when it comes to the acting skills of actors essaying the role of the Chinese Army. They appear barely convincing when they seek to inflict fear into the Indian Army with psychological warfares. What made things worse was mouthing of the slogan, ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’, after every minor squabble.

Read more: Paltan | We didn’t choose the roles, the roles chose us, say JP Dutta’s boys

The film ends with the historic clash between India and China that continues for three days. Guns blazing, bombings and soldiers dying on the battlefield — the portrayal of the war is undoubtedly the only aspect of the film that would keep you glued to the seat. The actual war is what engages the audience the most as the elaborate scenes show the supreme sacrifice a soldier makes for the country. The carnages and pyres look more real than reel. It can be safely said the climax makes up for the tardy build-up as JP Dutta manages to strike the right chords in the end. The Zinda Hoon song does the rest of the job, and would definitely leave you teary-eyed as the curtains fall.