*ing: Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Gurmeet Choudhary, Harshvardhan Rane, Siddhanth Kapoor, Luv Sinha, Abhilash Chaudhary, Esha Gupta
It is unfortunate that any movie on Army jawans, our unsung assets who put their lives in line to give us safe frontiers, falls flat on its face and, worse still, makes you feel guilty for not being evoked into instant patriotism for your country.
JP Dutta’s Paltan, which has hit the halls at an awkward time (it is not even the month of August or January), is surprisingly clueless about what the purpose of the film is. In the cold and barren land around Nathula where the entire movie sits, has a kind of static that adds to the proceedings. The only glorious thing about it is the fact that it is based on true martyrs who lost their lives when India recorded its solo victory against China by repulsing them at the Nathula pass.
Dutta brings to that screen the Paltan in quite an insipid manner, failing to capture the emotional appeal behind those war heroes. The problem is that he has copied the same template as that of Border, the film with which he hit the jackpot. It’s the same kind of story, same premise and the same concept of going back to the gaons of every hero who is certain to be martyred.
This worked with Border for two reasons. First, because it was a novel way to build a connect with the subject and two, something totally unconnected with the film itself. If one would recall, it was the first show of Border in which the horrific Uphaar cinema hall fire tragedy unfolded, killing many people. Border vicariously benefitted from the popular outpouring for the incident and ran to houseful shows for weeks because the distress of the tragedy was a constant companion of the film.
Paltan, helmed by Arjun Rampal as a wishy-washy England returned colonel who looks much too sophisticated and urban to be a hands-on Armyman, struggles with many issues, one of them being boredom around the stories Dutta tries to build but fails miserably in doing so. Either the characters are too effusive and overly patriotic or they are inept at evoking enough realism into their clashes with the Chinese on the other side of the border.
The skirmishes look almost frivolous till the bombardment actually starts towards the end and Jackie Shroff as the commander out to avenge the 1962 chicanery of the Chinese looks quite the man out of place, only symbolising the impotence of an Army governed by its political masters.
Some TV stars and other usual suspects in Army fatigue frothing with patriotic screams do not make for a good movie and Dutta’s effort looks too tired to be on the go and too familiar to bring in interest.