Paltan movie review: Overly-patriotic and tries too hard to recreate 'Border'
Dubai - Paltan is a priceless attempt at documenting a story that needs to be shared but fails in execution.
After his much-praised Border (1997), JP Dutta made an emotionally-charged LOC: Kargil in 2003 and now the filmmaker presents another war film, Paltan, which attempts to bring to the fore a story unknown to many Indians.
Set in 1967, Paltan traces the Nathu La and Cho La clashes on the Sikkim border after the Sino-India war in 1962. It takes us to ground zero, recreating the challenges the Indian soldiers faced while thwarting the attempts of the Chinese armed forces to infiltrate Sikkim and eventually defeat them.
The 1962 war that India lost is deeply etched in the psyche of the soldiers and there are repeated references to it and China's dishonest moves throughout the film.
The film attempts to showcase the humane side of soldiers with lines like "a soldier doesn't want war as he is the only one who knows its real cost."
One of the first things you notice in the film is the odd dialogues exchanged between the soldiers. They mostly use proverbs, popular phrases, and poetic lines. Sample this: "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." Is this how soldiers talk in reality?
The director brings together an ensemble cast featuring Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhary and Luv Sinha. The ladies, Esha Gupta, Sonal Chauhan, Dipika Kakar and Monica Gill, who are just part of the flashbacks, have no scope to perform.
At the border, we are introduced to young officers, Harshvardhan as Major Harbhajan Singh and Gurmeet as Captain Prithvi Singh Dagar who are always charged and ready to retaliate against the Chinese forces for their alleged transgressions in 1962 that led to the death of many Indian soldiers.
Sonu Sood as Major Bishen Singh is good with his measured acting. Arjun Rampal as Lt. Col. Rai Singh Yadav is in charge of the platoon, but we are not sure if he is the right fit for the role as he doesn't showcase the grit or bravado his role demands.
Jackie Shroff as Major General Sagat Singh is both powerful, as he takes tough action against Chinese infiltration, and also vulnerable during testing times when he is seeking orders from the high command to fire missiles to control the altercation. But Jackie is no Amitabh Bachchan for sure. As Col. Sunil Damle in the movie Lakshya, Bachchan's silence said much more than his words. In a scene after the victory, it was exhilarating to hear Big B say, "We've done it." While the film pushes the envelope when it comes to drama during the war scenes, there are also many lost opportunities.
The Chinese army were waging a psychological war on the Indian soldiers and the conflict between the parties seems real. In one particular scene, what starts as a simple stone pelting incident by a soldier soon escalates into a major slugfest, injuring quite a few.
Nothing is subtle in Paltan, everything is in your face. The director gets overly patriotic while shooting the war scenes and you know for a fact that the film will have a 'Suniel Shetty' moment with one of the heroes crossing the border and blowing himself up. Keep guessing who that would be while you watch the film.
Paltan is a priceless attempt at documenting a story that needs to be shared but fails in execution. Maybe if the film would have released last month during India's Independence Day celebrations, it would have worked better.
JP Dutta is one director who doesn't shy away from taking a page from India's history and chronicling it on the big screen. Enough credit needs to be given to the director, whose forte is war movies.
The film tries too hard to recreate the magic of Border. But don't go to the theatres expecting another Border, as even JP Dutta cannot recreate his classic.
Starring: Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhary, Luv Sinha, Esha Gupta, Sonal Chauhan, Dipika Kakar
Directed by: J P Dutta