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1962: The War In The Hills review – This melodramatic retelling of a forgotten Indian army mission is a big disappointment

Release Date: 26 Feb 2021

Cinestaan Rating

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Suyog Zore

The snail's pace screenplay, too many overly dramatic moments and surprisingly amateurish direction turn this story of valour into an epic mess.

Disney+ Hotstar's latest offering, 1962: The War In The Hills, is a disappointment of epic proportions. The war drama, which stars Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill, Sumeet Vyas, Annup Sonii and Akash Thosar of Sairat (2016) fame, among others, is based on the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

Deol plays Major Suraj Singh, who commands a company in the Indian army. His C company comprises soldiers from Rewari, a town in Haryana. These soldiers' lives are interwoven because they hail from the same village. Some have a crush on the same woman, another is about to get married, and someone else is dealing with the perils of being a single father. There is also a reference to a rigid system. And to round this off there is a token Muslim character. We get the proper back stories of all the soldiers and what is at stake on a personal level for them.

Giving back stories to soldiers is a common trope used by many filmmakers to heighten the drama and raise tension because the audience knows what's at stake if they die fighting. But one has to insert these back stories carefully without compromising on the main story. And this is where the web-series falters. It spends way too much time on back stories. We spend roughly seven episodes on the personal issues of these soldiers. Major Suraj Singh's wife (Mahie Gill) is diagnosed with cancer, which puts him in a difficult situation. He is not sure whether to be with her or on the front with his battalion. These clichéd issues are presented in even more clichéd manner.

The web-series is littered with logical loopholes and inconsistent writing. We are told that the weather in Ladakh is extremely cold and many of our soldiers die of hyperthermia than enemy bullets. But when our battalion reaches the top of the plateau, it doesn't seem to face any problem despite not having basic necessities such as boots and gloves. So what was the point of mentioning all that?

Things have gone wrong from the casting stage itself. The web-series is set in Haryana and Ladakh, but most of the soldiers are played by Marathi actors. There is not even a hint of Haryanvi when they are speaking. These might seem minor quibbles, but they hamper the viewing experience. Akash Thosar's Marathi-accented Hindi is a mood killer. At least they could have worked on him and helped him perfect his dialogue delivery!

There are plenty of problems in Charudutt Acharya's writing. One of them is his over-reliance on chunkily written exposition-heavy dialogues. The series starts off with a wrinkled old woman recounting the story of the 1962 war to her grandchildren. It's not only derivative, but also robs you of the suspense whether Major Suraj Singh's wife survived cancer.

The portrayal of the Chinese soldiers is also caricaturish at best. They are portrayed as barbarians who rip apart birds with their bare hands for no apparent reason. Even the visual effects are of poor quality.

The laborious ten-episode web-series just meanders on, arriving at the main conflict only in the final three episodes. The runtime of seven hours is really too much for a web-series that has nothing new to offer in terms of story or presentation. In fact, while watching the series one can't shake off the feeling that the subject would have been better suited for a feature-length film like Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019).

1962: The War In The Hills neither has the authenticity nor the epic treatment to veil the poor writing and acting. The only thing that works in the favour of the web-series is Abhay Deol's understated performance and some neatly choreographed combat sequences. Gunfights, slow-motion sequences, hand-to-hand combat, there is plenty of action in the penultimate episode. But the problem is that they are choreographed and shot like in a proper action film, which takes away whatever little realism was left in the series.

The show is a disappointment in every aspect. From the soap opera-like direction and sluggish screenplay to the poorly staged interactions with worse dialogues, everything is a mess here. Totally avoidable.

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Disney+ Hotstar

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