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Paltan review: This JP Dutta fare is too dated and bland for a war film

Release Date: 07 Sep 2018 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 30min


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Suparna Thombare

The director relies on old tropes and 'deshbhakti' dialogues to evoke a sense of patriotism.

JP Dutta presents his third war film after Border (1997) and LOC: Kargil (2003) in the form of Paltan. This time he takes on the Nathu La and Cho La clashes between India and China.

Despite being all-new fare, Dutta's treatment feels dated and the tardy jingoistic dialogue writing doesn't help either — Paltan is affected hugely by the Border hangover.

Set in 1967, Paltan traces the clashes on the Sikkim border after the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Dutta tells the story of what took place on ground zero through the partly fictionalized accounts of real soldiers, which include Harshvardhan Rane as Major Harbhajan Singh, Gurmeet Choudhary as Captain Prithvi Singh Dagar, Sonu Sood as Major Bishen Singh, Arjun Rampal as Lt Colonel Rai Singh Yadav and Jackie Shroff as Major General Sagat Singh.

Not yet over the deception by the Chinese in 1962, this paltan is passionate about getting back at the enemy this time around.

Most of the film follows the frequent skirmishes and altercations between Indian and Chinese forces at Nathu La, a crucial point of entry into Sikkim, which the Chinese were after. These portions are too bland and the urgency of the conflict doesn't really come through until the climax when things finally come to a head.

There are frequent flashbacks, Border-style, taking us back to the families and love interests. The portrayal is so standard and old school that it is difficult to connect with and feel for the characters.

Arjun Rampal and Sonu Sood try really hard to sell the screenplay, but the dialogues by Dutta are so lame that it is almost impossible to take them seriously. Imagine speaking constantly in deshbhakti and military terms and phrases. Sample this: 'No guts, no glory. No legends, no story', or 'Heroes don't choose their destiny, destiny chooses them', or 'Brother on my right, brother on my left; if we don’t stand united, we lose the fight'. These are just three from a long list.

The female characters are relegated to cameos. Esha Gupta is really out of place in her brief appearance, eliciting laughs as she appears in a white saree and a palloo over her head while wearing modern-day make-up.

Luv Sinha as Lieutenant Attar Singh, Rane and Choudhary suffer as their parts feel cosmetic and they seem to be trying too hard to be convincing. Monica Gill certainly has the screen presence and deserved a better role.  

The Chinese military personnel are painted as a psychopathic lot with their weird expressions. Dehumanizing them instantly reduces the weight of the effect of the war and the importance of what is unfolding before us.

Even though it is a war film, the action comes only in the last 20 minutes. And the last scenes where the remains of some of the dead soldiers are handed over to their respective families are long drawn.

The music by Sanjoy Chowdhury is decent but does not help to elevate the screenplay in any way. Shailesh Awasthhi and Nigam Bomzan get to work with beautiful locations atop the Himalayas but fail to juxtapose the ugly battle ensuing in the middle of all that beauty.

It's a pity that a subject that had the potential to offer more insight and a deeper prespective into a crucial moment in India's history is relegated to just bland fare.

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