Tag Archives: Bhuj: The Pride of India

Movie Review: Bhuj — The Pride of India (2021)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Bhuj: The Pride of India on Hotstar

Before writing, directing, and producing Bhuj: The Pride of India, Abhishek Dudhaiya directed over 1,000 TV episodes. Perhaps that’s why Bhuj‘s story feels like it would have been better served as a miniseries. Dudhaiya focuses so narrowly on action sequences and requisite patriotic war drama plot points that the film lacks emotional resonance.

Dudhaiya’s screenplay is based on real-life events from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, when Pakistani bombers destroyed the airstrip at Bhuj Air Force Base. Commanding Officer Vijay Karnik enlisted the help of 300 villagers to rebuild the strip and make it operational again. Other important characters are based on real people as well.

After a brief recap of the events leading up to the war, the story begins with Pakistani leaders devising a plan to distract India’s attention from the fighting in East Pakistan by attacking India’s western border. On December 8, 1971, warplanes from West Pakistan bombard the airstrip at Bhuj. Amidst smoke and explosions, Commanding Officer Vijay Karnik (Ajay Devgn) himself mans anti-aircraft guns to repel the attack, as many of his subordinate soldiers lie wounded around him.

Leading with such a visually dramatic scene isn’t an uncommon screenwriting choice, but it puts Dudhaiya in a bind. By December 8, Pakistan’s bombing of Western military sites had already been underway for several days, forcing the screenplay to flash back to earlier attacks in order to introduce other characters and locations important to the story. There are flashbacks within flashbacks to give characters backstory that further confuse the sequence of events.

Vijay’s storyline has a scene from December 3 — the day Pakistan first started its bombing campaign — that makes a more sensible opener. Vijay and his wife Usha (Pranitha Subhash) celebrate their wedding anniversary at a party with all the base’s officers and their families. Everyone dances, unaware that Pakistani jets are speeding toward them. As the romantic song “Hanjugam” ends, bombs fall on the adjacent airfield, sending civilians scrambling for cover and soldiers running to their posts. The scene establishes the camaraderie among the soldiers at the base and shows us who Vijay is trying to protect.

Sadly, sense of place and character motivation are low on Dudhaiya’s priority list. Other major characters like fighter pilot Vikram Singh Baj (Ammy Virk), Army scout Ranchordas Pagi (Sanjay Dutt), and Army officer Nair (Sharad Kelkar) — tasked to hold a strategic base with too few soldiers — get about 30 seconds of backstory each. At least Sonakshi Sinha’s village leader Sunderben kills a CGI leopard, while spy Heena Rehman (Nora Fatehi) gets a full training montage.

These are all characters that would have benefited from a longer series format, rather than a two-hour movie. Heena’s story is particularly ripe for exploration. She became a mole for India in order to avenge the death of her spy brother at the hands of Pakistani military intelligence head Mohammad Hussain Omani (Pawan Shankar). Heena’s assignment requires her to act as Omani’s girlfriend. How does she feel about having to sleep with the man who murdered her brother? Bhuj doesn’t ask. The only emotion characters are allowed to feel is patriotism.

The film’s priorities are action focused. Besides the bombings and air battles, there are a lot of hand-to-hand fight scenes. Pagi single-handedly kills about 100 men. The emphasis on individual physical prowess makes Bhuj blend in with other hero-centric Hindi films, like those where one honest man cleans up corruption by himself.

All of the action takes place without a sense of geography. Vijay needs to repair Bhuj’s airstrip so that Vikram can land a plane full of reinforcements from Jamnagar who will drive to Vighakot, the base that Nair and Pagi are trying to defend. There’s no sense of how far the bases are from each other, or how close Bhuj is to Sunderben’s village. Characters just show up wherever they need to be whenever they need to be there. Vikram miraculously crash lands within walking distance of his base after a dogfight with a Pakistani fighter plane.

Inscrutable geography is important, because Vijay has less than 24 hours to repair the airstrip. Though onscreen titles consistently show the location name and date when the scene changes, they don’t show the time. There is a ticking clock, but the audience can’t see it.

In real-life, repairs to the airstrip took three days. Adding that to the fact that Pakistani’s bombing campaign lasted over a week reinforces that Bhuj would have made a better series — especially in the hands of a director with no feature film experience but solid TV chops.

Links

  • Bhuj: The Pride of India at Wikipedia
  • Bhuj: The Pride of India at IMDb

Streaming Video News: July 29, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the early addition of Kriti Sanon’s film Mimi, which was supposed to make its global debut tomorrow. When a copy of the movie leaked online earlier this week, Netflix made it available for streaming immediately. According to Bollywood Hungama, the snafu has made Netflix reevaluate their deal with Mimi‘s producers, Maddock Films and Jio Studios.

Netflix also dropped the trailer for their new Indian Original sketch comedy competition Comedy Premium League, episodes of which debut on August 20. The show format sounds a lot like South Korea’s Comedy Big League, which also features teams of comedians competing for audience votes. One recurring segment on CBL is “Psychorus,” in which a pair of ridiculously dressed comics say nonsensical things to try and mess up a singers while they perform. Here’s Psychorus screwing with Taemin from Shinee as he sings his hit “Move“:

Hotstar also dropped a video this week announcing its slate of upcoming movies and shows, headlined by Ajay Devgn’s war drama Bhuj: The Pride of India (debuting August 13) and Saif Ali Khan’s supernatural comedy Bhoot Police (coming September 17). Variety has descriptions of all of the titles in the lineup, which includes a few returning series. Here’s Hotstar’s promo video:

Streaming Video News: July 1, 2020

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a handful of Indian films added today, including the 2007 slapstick comedy Welcome (which I thought was funny). Four films starring or produced by Salman Khan — Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Hero, Jai Ho, and Kick — have expired from the service.

Prime also released the trailer for the series Breathe: Into the Shadows, which debuts July 10.

The other big streaming news this week comes from Hotstar (or Disney+Hotstar, as it’s known in India). The service revealed seven major releases that will skip theaters and debut directly on Hotstar in the coming months. In addition to the previously announced July 24 digital release of Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara, the other titles include Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India, Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull, Alia Bhatt’s Sadak 2, Vidyut Jammwal’s Khuda Haafiz, and Kunal Khemu’s Lootcase.

While no new Indian titles were added to Netflix today, you can catch up on anything you might have missed from June in my monthly recap for What’s On Netflix.

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