Saturday, December 27, 2003

LOC Kargil 


It is to J.P Dutta’s credit that he took up the onerous task of making a film on the Kargil war, that had galvanized the patriotism of the nation. Ever more audacious was his signing up a galaxy of stars for almost all the speaking parts.

Dutta shot LOC-Kargil under difficult conditions, got the hardware of war right thanks to the cooperation of the army--it is undoubtedly a creditable effort. Pity then, that all that money and energy is wasted because the film is, in most part, unwatchable. Even if one sees it with reverence, as a patriotic duty so to say, it is still very tough to sit through after the first hour or so. At its 4-hour running time, the film is pure self-indulgence on the filmmaker’s part.

Once the characters, situations and locations are introduced, the film becomes repetitive with endless battle scenes (all of which look the same after a point), interspersed with scenes of the soldiers thinking of their wives/fiancées they have left behind. All these portions lack variation too, and the women are all given the same look—as if there was something like a generic army woman.

Over and over again, men get killed in trying to save their friends or pull their corpses out; again and again wounded men refuse stretchers because it would deplete their numbers; turn by turn all the main actors mourn the death of their buddies. Each time a vulgar expletive is hurled at the enemy, or a cheap ‘filmi’ dialogue uttered one cringes in revulsion.

The film does show the Indian army in a glorious light – and deservedly so—but why the blatant plug for Bofors? Why does the director so conveniently overlook the intelligence failure that led to the tragedy? Why is the media’s sensation-mongering role dealt with by just a mention of Barkha Dutt?

In the process of ploddingly trying to show every skirmish, every clash in boring, documentary-ish detail, the director lost grip on the narrative. He could have, perhaps, concentrated on one major incident and then gone closer to the men, their lives and loves.

Well made and carefully detailed though it is, LOC has a curiously ‘detached’ feel to it, as if Dutta didn’t want to really muck around with the ugliness of war. As a result, it has neither the artistry of a Saving Private Ryan, nor the stark poetry of Thin Red Line, and certainly not the thrill value of even the director’s own Border.


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