Article Hindi

20 years of Border: Unintentionally hilarious scenes from the film


Though a blockbuster, JP Dutta's Border wasn't without the jingoism and melodrama that have become hallmarks of Indian war films.

A scene from Border

Mayur Lookhar

Over the years, war films seem to have lost their appeal. Not that India and Pakistan don't exchange hostilities anymore, but audiences don’t seem to warm up to such tales now.

There was a time though when war films instilled a sense of patriotism amongst viewers. Given our success over Pakistan in battle, some of these films indulged in brazen Pakistan bashing, with audiences lapping up the jingoism and melodrama. And when you are talking war films, they don't get bigger than JP Dutta’s Border (1997).

Based on the battle of Longewala, Rajasthan, during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Border was a multi-starrer with the reigning strong men of Hindi cinema, Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty, and Puneet Issar, intimidating the enemy and audiences with their over-the-top dialogues and action.

Dutta made the film in honour of his brother who had died while serving the Indian Air Force. Dutta’s first film Sarhad (1976) was also dedicated to his brother, but it was never released. Twenty-one years later, he had his wish fulfilled with Border.

Border was a blockbuster and also won the National award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. The film deserved the accolades, but it wasn’t without the jingoism and melodrama that Indian war film have become known for.

As Border completes 20 years (the film was released in India on 13 June 1997), we look at some unintentionally hilarious scenes from the film. Beware, some of them might make you bang your head in disbelief.

Mathura Das’s joy on getting leave

In the armed forces, it's always country before family. Soldiers lead a tough life and have to stay away from families for extended periods. Naturally, they would rejoice when they get to be with their near and dear ones. But the manner in which Mathura Das (Sudesh Berry) gloats over his leave approval is sure to make real soldiers cringe. Berry was never rated highly as an actor and his over-anxiety clearly gets the better of him here. No wonder Major Kuldip Singh (Sunny Deol) gives him an earful, in his own OTT manner.

Don’t abuse Bhairon Singh’s ‘dharti maa

Suniel Shetty was a popular actor in the 1990s, particularly for his trademark ‘aye’ roar that was often accompanied by a comical waving of hands. Shetty brought that style to Bhairon Singh, too, who takes offence to Mathura Das insulting his 'mother', the desert sands of Rajasthan. The manner in which Das and Singh confront each other will have you whooping. It is like watching two schoolboys brawling. They trade more verbal volleys than punches. Remarkably, the macho show ends in a quick hug.

New ‘spring’ in the dying Das’s step

Having buried the hatchet, Das and Bhairon Singh indulge in a bit of bromance before the former dies. Poor Das takes plenty of bullets to get a spring for Singh’s gun. Even as he is peppered with bullets, Das doesn’t stop roaring. He manages to deliver the spring to Singh and breathes his last, but not before mouthing some archaic lines. You feel absolutely no sympathy for Das as you are relieved you won’t be seeing more of him in the film. His dying expression is more reminiscent of a chipmunk and for a moment you fear he might puke on Bhairon Singh.

Bhairon Singh, the true son of the soil

Our heroes don’t die easily, but the manner in which Bhairon Singh falls is too good to be true. As the light in his eyes begins to fade, Singh derives superhuman strength from his repeated ‘shakti de, maa’ (give me strength, mother). Five bullets see Singh roll like a ball, but he is not done yet. Neither has he lost his grip on the anti-tank mine he is carrying. After all, this is an Indian action film. Presumed dead by the Pakistanis, Singh wakes up and roars 'ayyee’ again before placing the mine in the path of the retreating Pakistani tank. Thankfully, there is no coming back for the tank or for Singh.

Just how many bullets does it take?

Our filmi soldiers seem to love tumbling down dunes. This time Dharamvir Singh (Akshaye Khanna) tumbles along with two Pakistani soldiers. He takes them out but is trapped in the net of the enemy, who has encircled him. It is hard to understand why, when a lone warrior squares up against dozens, the pawns let him take the first shot. Dharamvir kills nearly half his opponents but the writing is on the wall. We lost count of the number of bullets it took to bring him down. Also, for all the Pakistan-bashing in the film, the actors here should be lauded for never firing a bullet to the face of the Indian soldiers. Sadly, it’s a different tale in the real world.

Sunny Deol dares as Pak ‘snapers’ stare

A battlefield can throw up unpleasant surprises so you may sometimes have to throw out the conventional and run the gauntlet. But how does one explain the bravado of Major Kuldip Singh (Deol), who has the temerity to stroll up to an enemy post and stroll back to his post? Dharamvir and Bhairon are left intrigued by the major’s daredevilry. Funnily, so are the Pakistani snipers, who do not fire even a warning shot! Oh, well, it's just an Indian war film.