The take-off is impressive with a well-choreographed dogfight in the skies and the landing is heroic. With several set pieces of action, the 1971 war comes alive as Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik’s air force base in Bhuj is bombarded by Pakistan’s Yahya Khan.
When India went to the aid of East Pakistan, leaving its western front practically unguarded, Yahya Khan had put into action a devious plan to attack Kutch from all sides, to cut its communication with the rest of India and to walk in with his forces. His optimistic target: to victoriously march into Delhi and have tea with Indira Gandhi.
Caught off guard, Commanding Officer Vijay Karnik has to restore the Bhuj airstrip for help to land.
Any day is good when it comes to saluting our flag. But it becomes even more special when it’s Independence Day. And Bhuj: The Pride Of India stirs patriotism by retelling the story of how India paid Pakistan Rs 55 crore to build itself as a new nation in 1947 but was repeatedly attacked by its ungrateful neighbour. The injustice done to East Pakistan which gave birth to Bangladesh with India’s military assistance is the brief history of the 1971 war.
But what happened on the western border is seldom told and director Abhishek Dudhaiya doesn’t hold back the punches or mince his words. The dramatised documentation of a real war is accomplished by a trio of terrific technicians: action (Peter Hein, RP Yadav), cinematography (Aseem Bajaj), and special effects (NY VFXWAALA). Apart from the war scenes, a masala factory fight-out, Nora Fatehi’s feisty and physical showdown, and the stoning to death sequence are some of the pieces where the trio blends its skills for a good visual impact.
A bunch of interesting characters are brought in to keep the action going. Heena Rehman, a Sehmat-like female mole inside the higher echelons of Pakistani intelligence, is played with a punch by Nora Fatehi. Good to see her take a break from item numbers.
Ranchoddas Pagi which is Sanjay Dutt in a pagdi, gives colour to the spy vs spy machinery. Sharad Kelkar as Col RK Nair, the Malayalee wedded to a Muslim girl back home in Kerala, symbolises the inclusive Indian as well as the patriot who’ll give his last drop of blood to defend his motherland. Amiable Punjabi star Ammy Virk as Vikram Singh epitomises the fighting spirit of the Sikh. Sonakshi Sinha as Sunderben, the sherni of Gujarat, leads the rural women who help rebuild the airstrip in the nick of time.
But of course the show belongs to Ajay Devgn as Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik because he’s always so reassuring as a man you can rely on, who’ll get the job done, no matter what the odds.
The film does have its uninspired moments. Like the predictable maarna ya marna dialogues and the inspirational speeches by Sonakshi and Ajay to get the women force moving. But India’s role in the creation of Bangladesh and never seeking to be expansionist in her wars is clearly spelt out.
Ultimately, Bhuj: The Pride Of India is a well-produced spectacle that tells a good tale. And yes, Yahya Khan never did get that cup of tea.