Paltan Movie Review: Cinema Fights a Losing Battle

Paltan opens with a postman delivering telegrams to families of the soldiers claimed by the 1967 Sino-Indian skirmish. With Siddhant Kapoor as the interpreter, the film tells the story of a platoon headed by Colonel Singh (Arjun Rampal), with officers played by Sonu Sood, Gurmeet Choudhary, Harshvardhan Rane, and Luv Sinha serving under him, during the fight with the Chinese forces at Sikkim’s Nathu La pass.

Dutta gives most of these soldiers filmy back-stories, allowing him to take the viewer away from the stark landscape where most of the action unfolds, and into uninteresting and almost irrelevant settings. These scenes have little to no impact, since they barely achieve what they were intended for — to make us care for these men. Their wives who are shown to be waiting for them at home have such little significance, it seems like Esha Gupta, who played Arjun Rampal’s wife, didn’t even bother acting, as she blankly watched her husband’s jeep roll away.

When the main cast is written to be so unbelievably one-dimensional that even cardboard cut-outs seem to have emotional versatility in comparison, no amount of Dutta’s signature flashbacks about love and family can help.

The screenplay is not even the worst part. The soldiers use clichéd phrases and idioms so frequently, that one wonders whether they might have known that they were in a Bollywood movie. Sonu Sood, who plays the role of the tough Major, goes to the extent of says things like, “weapons are a soldier’s limbs” and “soldiers don’t fight because they hate the other army, but love the ones they left behind and their country,” trying to pass them off as normal sentences. The word “yaara” has been thrown around awfully lot, as way of reminiscing of Border and LOC Kargil. If JP Dutta could, he probably would copyright words and phrases like ‘yaara,’ ‘dharti hamari maa hai,’ ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai,’ including other dangerously nationalistic slogans.

Laden with stereotypes of jacked soldiers with a seething desire for vengeance, the movie portrays the Chinese as sneaky soldiers following the orders of a cartoonish evil Commissar. Likewise, the token Sikh warrior is made to invoke Waheguru as a means of comic relief so poorly done, that it borders on offensive.

There isn’t much to be said about the ensemble cast. Gurmeet Choudhary and Harshvardhan Rane act like any passionate soldier, with noses flaring and furrowing brows, which to their credit, they pull off quite well.

In an attempt to invoke a sense of patriotism perhaps, these men are shown to still nurse the wounds from the 1962 Sino-Indian war, ready to lay down their lives for the nation’s security. A final one-day battle ensues after which the Chinese call for peace by waving the white flag.

The men in the film did their best with the little they had. They shouted every dialogue, vocalised the love for their country, and fought a decently written battle sequence. However, they failed to evoke one’s emotion like Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri (Sunny Deol) did in Border. However, to be fair to the actors, their characters and the plot was more or less a copied remake of Border, a public-favourite difficult to upstage.

It is saddening to see that directors as experienced as Dutta have to rely on cheap cinematic tricks, and feel that perpetuating stereotypes and xenophobic hatred will help them turn a profit. The action is predictable and often repetitive, especially in the middle of the film. The final battle sequence is the only saving grace, a common occurrence with Dutta’s films.

In conclusion, if I wanted to watch a war movie directed by JP Dutta, I would simply play Border (1997) or LOC Kargil (2003) instead of spending 154 minutes watching ‘Paltan’, a hackneyed film have little to no novelty to offer

Picture Credits : indianexpress.com

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