Wednesday, March 14, 2007

1971 The Movie

It is one of those pleasures in life which doesn't cost much. Watching a good movie in near empty cinema hall without being disturbed by noisy college kids or by never ending mobile phone beeps. Added advantage is that you don’t have to jostle at the popcorn counter during interval and you can occupy any seat you want. It feels as if a private screening has been arranaged just for you. When I walked into the hall to watch 1971, I had little expectations and just wanted to kill some time. I was in for a surprise. It turned out to be unusually engaging and well made movie. Movie's plot revolves around attempt of few Indians prisoners of war of 1971 who are lodged in Pakistani jails and are moved to a new camp near the border to avoid their detection by visiting Red Cross. Bollywood has a bad record of making mainstream movies which deal with politics or war and most of such movies end jingoistic, over the top (Border) and sometime unintentionally funny (various) . 1971 is more restraint and except for few cinematic liberties it takes, like in climax scene, it is rather realistically made. For once there are no songs and dances which would have killed the pace of the movie. A good movie is which engages and which makes audience feel the character’s travails. 1971 does it pretty well for most parts. Most of characters are well etched out and acting is also top class. Some of scenes are absolutely fantastic, like the one in which on the run prisoners see Pakistani army marching into the village, the scene where Ravi's character kills himself to let his friends escape and a scene where Manoj Bajpai see the Indian side of border after the day break. Fortunately makers have made sure that characters are not made larger than life like in earlier PoW movie called "Deewar-lets bring our heroes back". The drama behind escape is engaging and creates necessary tension for action to be gripping. Dialogues are sensible and cinematography apt. After the movie I wondered why there was just handful of spectators in theatre to watch such a good movie!! It is far better than many karan Johar movies.

Though the movie has fictional plot, it is based on real facts. During 1971 war, India returned around 90,000 Pakistani PoWs and in return Pakistan also did the same though they had few indians PoWs. After the wat some families of indian soldiers claimed that pakistan had not returned all the soldiers and some of them who were deaclared missing were lodged in pakistani jails. Pakistan denied this (and still does). This was contrary to all kinds of proofs from smuggled letters by Indian PoW which were sent to their relatives and families in India describing their locations and conditions in various Pakistani jails. There were also news in Pakistani newspapers about capturing of Indian soldiers or air-men during the war. Lots of families of these prisoners have fought for many years to bring their sons back from jails and even after co-operation from Pakistani human rights activists and Red Cross nothing has happened for more than 35 years. Victoria Schoffield , BBC reporter in her book on Bhutto, the president of Pakistan who was jailed after the war and imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat jail, quoted Bhutto as saying that he could hardly sleep in his cell due to horrific shrieks and screams at night which were tracked to Indians PoWs who had gone lunatics. Pakistanis are known to speak lies with straight face. For example they never attacked Kargil, Pakistanis killed in Kargil were not their soldiers, and they have nothing to do with Osama Bin laden or even Taliban. For Pakistan hiding 60-70 odd Indians prisoners in Pakistan would not have been tough and they possibly had to do that to avoid any international shame for violating the Geneva Convention. Whatever the politics behind it, it is tragic for those families who do not even know if their sons/brothers are still alive or dead.

No comments: