Director: Amrit Sagar
Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Ravi Kissen, Deepak Dobriyal, Kumud Mishra, Chitranjan Giri and Manav Kaul
Films showcasing tales of prisoners of war (PoWs) and border feuds have come and gone, some without even seeing light of day.
1971 is a film that may be classified in the same genre, earnestly trying to highlight the issue of Indian military personnel still held captive as Prisoners of War on Pakistani soil.
Set against the backdrop of the aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the film tells the story of these personnel, the mounting pressure on the Pakistani government by international Human rights agencies which forces it to relocate the Indian PoWs to a new prison, close to the Indian border.
Suspecting foul play are a few Indian soldiers, including Major Suraj Singh (Manoj Bajpai). On discovering that they have been tricked, the soldiers hatch an escape plan. All this takes place on Pakistan’s independence day, which is also the eve of the Indian Independence day.
Despite obstacles along the way, the soldiers manage to escape. What follows is an exhaustive chase by the Pakistan army to ensure their capture and maintain the secrecy of the PoWs presence in the country.
It is evident that the story is uncomplicated, which comes as a relief considering all movies in this genre (especially Bollywod ones) have had multiple stories running simultaneously.
Although the camerawork and production values are good, there are hardly any moments where your heart goes out to the characters. You are always left feeling conscious of watching a movie and being alienated from the characters.
The dialogues, at times, seem juvenile, like the arguments between the lady from Red Cross and the Pakistani military commander, or even the way the Pakistani wing commander delivers his lines. What is laudable, however, is that the director has avoided going overboard with the colour filters, maintaining the authenticity of the environment.
The end, with the newspaper articles confirming the presence of the PoWs in Pakistan and images of those who are missing since the war, makes your eyes moist. Shibani Kashyap’s solo track playing in the background makes you go numb. This is perhaps the only heart rending moment in the entire film.
Though the film is worth a watch, it is sad that it will not achieve a good response at the box office. Viewers for this kind of cinema are but a handful. The film can be expected to do an average business in a few cities like Mumbai, Pune and even regions of northern India. Oversees business may be restricted to a decent response, particularly in the Middle East.
On the acting front, there are no power packed performances. A seasoned actor like Manoj Bajpai, in fact, fails to create the required impact.
The film manages to weave reality and fiction well, resulting in a good movie experience. It is a sincere endeavour by debutant director Amrit Sagar, and this sincerity itself makes for a good reason to watch the film.