Happy birthday JP Dutta: Maker of India's memorable war films

The maker of such earlier films as Hathyar (1989) and Kshatriya (1993), director JP Dutta made his name with a trio of nationalistic films starting with Border (1997). For his 67th birthday today (3 October), we take a look at their success and why they struck a chord.

Sonal Pandya

1. Border (1997)

Based on the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, JP Dutta assembled an all-star cast of Sunny Deol, Suneil Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, Rakhee, Jackie Shroff, Tabu and Pooja Bhatt to tell his emotional story of soldiers who went off to fight for India. Dutta also showed those left behind — the family members who coped with their loved ones being on the front line. For the first time, the enemy was not a shadowy being, but boldly named as Pakistan. The film won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration at the National Awards. The sentimental song, ‘Sandese Aate Hain’, was written by Javed Akhtar and composed by Anu Malik. Dutta has announced plans to make a sequel to Border with former wrestler turned actor, Sangram Singh, and Ajit Sodhi (son of Nafisa Ali) in the leads.

2. Refugee (2000)

For his follow-up to Border, Dutta took the heightened Indo-Pak conflict and wove it around a love story between an Indian and a Pakistani. The film is said to be inspired from a short story by Keki N Daruwalla, Love Across the Salt Desert. Refugee launched the careers of star kids Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor and co-starred Suneil Shetty and Jackie Shroff. Bachchan played an Indian agent, Refugee, who aids Pakistanis migrate from East to West Pakistan. Kapoor played one such refugee, Nazneen Ahmed, who he falls in love with. There were several moments of contention shown between the two nations. Shetty and Shroff play border security officers on opposite sides of the border who are trying their best to protect their nations. Dutta’s father, OP Dutta, a veteran filmmaker himself, won the Filmfare Award for Best Dialogues for Refugee.

3. LOC Kargil (2003)

JP Dutta returned back to the formulaic war film with LOC Kargil which was based on the real-life battles, Operation Vijay and the Battle of Tololing, in 1999. Once again, stars like Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Suneil Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor were cast to depict the harrowing events at the line of control (LOC). Dutta showed the impact of the effects of war on ordinary citizens who live around the borders of our nation. For both Border and LOC Kargil, Dutta had military clearance from the army to portray the events onscreen. Dutta revealed that all his soliders, guns and equipment for the films were all provided by the ministry. The long-running film, at around 255 minutes, stands as one of the longest running Indian films ever made. Dutta, reportedly, is working of two more war films, one on the 1962 Indo-China, which we lost and the other on the 19th century Battle of Saragarhi.