Every time we think Bollywood cannot get more outrageous with its content, they set another benchmark then and there. “Bhuj-The Pride of India” could have been portrayed in a much better way, if we consider the real story behind it. Director Abhishek Dhudhaiya could have done a lot better with the plot, but ultimately it led to a disparage for a war film. The story is based on a real-life incident of the localities of Bhuj and Gujarat, who built an airstrip overnight under the supervision of Airforce Vijay Srinivas Karnik during 1971 India-Pakistan war hold potential. Women of nearby villages were amongst the majority in building the airstrip so that Indian Airforce plains can land safely on Bhuj Airbase. It is a true story of synergy, tenacity, and valor that could have made a commendable film, especially during the Indian Independence weekend. But what we get in “Bhuj: The Pride of India” is unrealistic and exaggerated things that are far from inspiring and entertaining.
It shambles through a series of explosions, dogfights, and human-fight without a second pause for breath and giving space to the audience to understand what on-screen is going on? In the starting few minutes of the film, the hero’s Jeep sprints into a ball of fire caused by an enemy fighter jet that lashes in the middle of an Indian airbase. The next moment, the wounded Air Force Officer lies on the ground, neither he writes, nor he sobs. The narration starts with his voice. The battle scenes, the visual effects, the pyros, the prevalent spirit of the acting, and the quality of the writing grapple with each other in a race to be on top of the squinted index.
Directed and co-written by Abhishek Dudhaiya, Bhuj: The Pride of India, streaming on Disney+Hotstar from 13th August, portrays a fictionalized plot of an episode from the 1971 India-Pakistan War. It whirls around the heroism of soldiers and localities who rebuilt devasted airstrip in a single night. In the bargain, all that the film does is prosecutes an all-out war on all the rules of sensible filmmaking.
The patriotic standpoint of the men in uniform who declaims the “Breath-taking” line about patriotism and nationalism is laced truism, with leading man Ajay Devgn. He is in the role of Squadron Leader Vijay Srinivas Karnik, leading the barrage. The real-life hero on whom the character is customized is quickly dumped by the wayside amid a non-stop barrage of inanities. The film aims to be a typical Bollywood star vehicle rather than a veritable tribute to the great soldiers of the Indian Defence forces.
Sanjay Dutt, playing an Indian villager who joins the Indian RAW agency, gets a fair bit of the action parallel to Devgn. They are portrayed as an all-purpose man. They do everything from spying for the nation and fighting bare-handed against Pakistani soldiers to defusing time bombs and performing prodigy in the face of daunting odds. Everybody else in the film, including Sharad Kelkar, an actor who has the voice to rise above any uproar, is reduced to firing blanks.
After more than an hour into the film, the spotlight shifts to a village where women are in majority because the young men are all away from their homes in search of jobs in the cities. The government contractors and suppliers have run away in fear. So, the Squadron Leader seeks the local’s help to get the runway up and running again. Doesn’t matter what the villagers do, the film’s rough smudges never end. And, this is not enough, the Bhuj airbase commanding officer tries to make us believe that women are to be held in the highest esteem because they are excellent at fixing everything like from broken shirt buttons to a broken spirit. To dig into the sexism, he says, in another context, that a woman’s most prized possession is her home.
There are only a few things in the film that makes sense. If anything is worse than acting here is the writing. As a result, the “best” line that the lead actor speaks is, “Main Marne keliye Jeeta hoon, Mera Naam hai sipahi”. The film is literally dead-on arrival. Common sense is not so common here during the scenes of the explosions, which is sadly from scene one only. And in the remaining two hours, Bhuj: The Pride of India, is busy gathering the scattered splinters of its wersh ideas made infinitely worse by executing the ham-fisted treatment.