Review Hindi

Bhuj: The Pride Of India review – Unconvincing retelling of a brave story

Release Date: 13 Aug 2021 / Rated: U/A / 01hr 53min

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Keyur Seta

The Disney+ Hotstar movie, starring Ajay Devgn and Sonakshi Sinha, suffers from a haphazard narrative.

An important and thrilling, though less known, incident of the India-Pakistan war of 1971 took place when the Indian Air Force’s landing strip at Bhuj in western Gujarat was destroyed by the Pakistani Air Force. With all the land routes to send assistance to the airbase also destroyed, the officers of the IAF were faced with a dire problem.

It was then that Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik requested 300 women from a nearby village to help reconstruct the airstrip in record time. The women took up the challenge and carried out the task, playing an important role in helping the IAF quell the Pakistanis.

First-time director Abhishek Dudhaiya’s Bhuj: The Pride Of India was announced as the film that would pay tribute to the valiant efforts of these rustic women from Kutch. But like its trailer, the film also does not give much importance to the story of the women.

Bhuj mostly revolves around the character of Sqn Ldr Karnik (Ajay Devgn). He and his colleagues are in dire straits as the PAF wreaks havoc by destroying their airstrip. The film also features Sanjay Dutt as Ranchoddas Pagi, an officer of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, who stays near the Pakistan border, and Sharad Kelkar as air force officer RK Nair.

Bhuj has a haphazard and unsettling first half. The viewer is bombarded with one action scene after another for the most part without any flow. The non-linear narration and firing of too much information makes it difficult for the viewer to focus. We see a number of important characters enter the scene, but the writers do nothing to establish them, including the important ones of Karnik, Pagi and Nair. We only know that they are brave, patriotic men who won’t hesitate to sacrifice their lives for the country. That’s about it. We learn nothing about their backgrounds.

The film's writers seem to believe that the only way to evoke patriotism is to make the positive characters recite chest-thumping lines that are outdated even by the standards of those Sunny Deol films of yore. Instead of making you feel proud, they end up making you feel bad for the real-life heroes like Sqn Ldr Karnik. In fact, there is also a scene where the Indian officers are made to recite a line each from a poem while taking aim at the enemy.

Not surprisingly, the film portrays the Pakistani military officers as caricatures. For example, one senior officer criticizes his juniors for killing "only 30 lakh civilians" in the erstwhile East Pakistan. He goes on to say that they had realized in 1947 itself that the Pakistani flag would only fly high over dead bodies and if the corpses are few, the flag will slide down.

Bhuj becomes more watchable when the women finally enter the picture. But justice isn't done to their heroic effort and their episode ends abruptly. Sonakshi Sinha appears confident but she doesn’t get into the skin of a character living in a small village in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Worse, the writers don’t spare even her from their jingoistic lines.

The poor screenplay and dialogues also hurt the performances of the other artistes. Devgn and Kelkar still manage to stand out, but Sanjay Dutt is strictly average. His character is hampered by the poorly presented scene where he singlehandedly fights dozens of Pakistani soldiers.

South actress Pranita Subhash, who got a meatier role in her debut Hindi movie Hungama 2 (2021) recently, is literally a mute spectator here. Nora Fatehi tries too hard to be a patriotic spy but falls flat.

Bhuj also suffers from not-so-impressive VFX. But this problem pales in the face of the ones relating to the story and screenplay.

Disney+ Hotstar is now streaming Bhuj: The Pride Of India


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