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The Ghazi Attack from Pakistan's point of view


While India gets ready for The Ghazi Attack, Pakistani director Kazim Pasha had made a telefilm Ghazi Shaheed in 1998 with a different perspective to honour the bravery of the Pakistani naval officers on board PNS Ghazi. 

Ghazi Shaheed (1998)

Mayur Lookhar

History can be subjective especially when it comes to wars. The victor has all the bragging rights, while the vanquished like to forget it as a bad dream. Across the globe, most war films are usually made by the victorious nation. Seldom will you come across a nation which will entertain a film that highlights its defeat.

India and Pakistan have had four wars, with the neighbours still fighting over Kashmir. History suggests that India has held the upper hand in the four wars (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999), and Indian filmmakers have celebrated India's triumph through many a film, the most popular being JP Dutta's Border (1997) and Chetan Anand's Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999).

A few days back Dharma Productions unveiled the trailer of The Ghazi Attack, described as India's first naval warfare film involving a submarine. Dharma Productions is distributing the Hindi version, with the Telegu version (Ghazi) being produced by PVP Cinema. 

The Ghazi Attack trailer: Finally a submarine film Indian cinema deserves

The Ghazi episode revolves around the sinking of the PNS Ghazi, Pakistan’s first fast-attack submarine that was leased from the United States in 1963.  Ghazi went down the depths in 1971.

In 1998, Pakistani director Kazim Pasha had made a telefilm Ghazi Shaheed, that was produced by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), an administrative military media brand of Pakistan Army to broadcast and coordinate military news and information to the country's civilian media and the civic society.

If INS Rajput was instrumental in the sinking of PNS Ghazi, it makes you wonder why would the Pakistani authorities give their blessing to a project that would show their navy as the vanquished? 

We called director Kazim Pasha who enlightened us on the true essence of his film. 

"Let me make it clear, my film was not about any Indo-Pak naval war, nor did we blame India for the ship’s sinking. The PNS Ghazi was pressed into service to prevent the INS Vikrant from entering East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). However, INS Vikrant had passed from that point. The Ghazi sinking had nothing to do with an Indian attack though."

Based on his extensive research, Pasha explained the probable reason behind the Pakistani submarine's sinking. He said, "The Ghazi had possibly come into contact with the mines that were laid by our navy to stop the INS Rajput. The mines were defloated due to the under water currents and it has been assumed that one of these mines hit Ghazi. Had we called it an electronic failure, then that (electronic) department would have been offended."

Backing his probable claim, the filmmaker stated that a Yugoslavian ship had witnessed a huge splash in the ocean but it was not due to any attack by the Indian navy. 

Pasha added that after Ghazi Shaheed was aired, an English daily had filed a report of the debris of PNS Ghazi being placed at a museum in Kolkata. 

As the title suggests, Pasha iterated that Ghazi Shaheed was a telefilm to honour the bravery of the Pakistani naval officers on-board PNS Ghazi. 

"Our main agenda was to show the bravery of our officers. 93 of our finest officers lost their lives. We had some very senior acclaimed officers. So, it was important to honour their sacrifices," said Pasha.

Popular Pakistani actor, Humayun Saeed had made his debut with Ghazi Shaheed. "It’s been a long time. That was my first ever project on the screen. I didn’t play the lead, but I was among one of the officers. The show had got a very warm response from our audience," Saeed told Cinestaan.com.

Interestingly, this was a project that was conceived by Pakistans’s ISPR. Pasha said, "Ghazi Shaheed was purely ISPR's production. They had called me from Pakistani Television Corporation. Admiral Mansurul Haq, the then chief of naval staff had ordered to carry out this project. I was among the 19 people who was interviewed for making this film." 

In India, the INS Rajput is said to have caused Ghazi’s sinking.

Admiral S.M. Nanda, Chief of Naval Staff of Indian Navy during the conflict, stated: "In narrow channels, ships, during an emergency or war, always throw depth charges around them to deter submarines. One of them probably hit the Ghazi. The blow-up was there, but nobody knew what it was all about until the fisherman found the life jacket." A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy a submarine.

While that is an Indian claim, the sinking of the PNS Ghazi still remains a mystery. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding it, you wonder what piece of history will The Ghazi Attack depict.

The Ghazi Attack stars Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon and Taapsee Pannu. The trailer has evoked a largely positive response with curious fans keen on the unravelling of this chapter in Indo-Pak war history. The film is an adaption of the book The Blue Fish, by author Sankalp Reddy, who is also the director of the film.

While India gets ready for The Ghazi Attack, it is highly commendable that Pakistan had made such a telefilm in 1998.

Elaborating on the production process of Ghazi Shaheed, Pasha said, "The underwater shooting was all planned on a model. We placed the model submarine in a tank. Though underwater cameras had been introduced, they were not of the highest quality then. I got one camera from a Pakistan daily. Later, we had a new submarine which was designed on the Ghazi and we re-enacted the scenes."

"We'd shot for 24 hours under the water. The biggest challenge were the tides. I guess in those days we paid about Pakistani rupees 50,000 a day for hiring the submarine," added the filmmaker, who won the Tamgha-E-Imtiaz (civil honour).

In a 2010 article, Indian Lieutenant-General JFR Jacob of Eastern Command maintained that: "Ghazi had met an accidental end and the Indian Navy had nothing to do with its sinking, hence the destruction of the records."

In 2011, former Indian naval chief, Admiral Arun Prakash was quoted in the national security conference saying that Ghazi had sunk under mysterious circumstances, not by INS Rajput as originally claimed.

While it is too early to judge, but as seen from its trailer, The Ghazi Attack could portray a heroic Indian version of the sinking of PNS Ghazi.  The trailer possibly hints at unraveling a classified chapter.

Pannu’s character speaks in Bengali, and she's shown to be rescued by Lt. Commander Arjun Varma (Daggubati). Perhaps director Reddy is treading on a dark past when sexual assaults on Bangladeshi women were commonplace. But by putting the 'classified' veil over it, the director has left The Ghazi Attack open to debate, but one that may not stand in court, if disputed. After all, a classified document is not meant for public consumption.

Pasha is not aware of the upcoming Indian film, but he certainly hopes to see it, once it finds its way online. 

Check out the lone scene available on Youtube from Ghazi Shaheed. Also, below is The Ghazi Attack trailer.