Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo: Because This Movie Has Killed Me

by vpundir | June 26th, 2006

Just got done watching Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, and it is a miracle that I’ve survived to write this review. No one should be made to endure the torture of sitting through the whole 3 hours of this flick. (Yes, I do realize that the movie was released in 2004 and my warning comes a little late in the day)

The first things you notice about the film are the rather tacky special effects and bad acting right upto when the ship has drowned completely during titling. I have no idea how much money they spent on the scene, but to me the production value seemed poor. And that’s no compliment to the producer, who is also the director (and can’t point fingures either way). I liked Anil Sharma’s Gadar; in fact, I liked it a lot. But in this movie, he has evidently lost it completely.

The casting-coup that Sharma was so proud of at the launch of the movie is, at least in part, the reason for the pathetic end-product. In trying to give equitable parts to his megastars, Sharma loses grip over the story, and the slack builds to the extent of total loss of control.

Besides, the casting itself is far from perfect. While Amitabh Bachchan as the proud, patriotic, and authoritative Amarjeet Singh is great, Naghma is a complete misfit as Kunal (Bobby)’s mother. Bobby Deol and Akshay Kumar have matured as actors and look good as army officers, but Akshay simply lacks the voice and dialog-delivery required for some of the dialogs that have been handed to him. That is a shame, as for most part Akshay fits the role to the T. Ashustosh Rana is efficient and believable, as always. Danny Dengzongpa is his usual self in the small role that he is given. Sandali Sinha looks better than she did in Tum Bin and acts better too, but her timing is off.

The biggest problem of the movie is the plot, though. The film is confused about what it wants to be. Is it the coming-of-age story of a mischievious young Kunal, who has joined the army for family tradition but wants to fly off to America and make money? Or is it the tale of a brave officer Rajiv Singh, who is taken a prisoner-of-war shortly after leaving his wife behind, on the very date of his wedding (did someone mention “Border”?)? Perhaps it is the tale of defence advisor Amarjeet Singh, who is prepared to sacrifice everything – even his son and his grandson – for the nation. Or maybe it is the story of Pakistan army’s Colonel Ashfaque Khan who achieves enlightenment and “reforms”. The film tries to do too much, and in the process ends up doing nothing.

It has so may sub-plots that it seems to be a collage rather than a single coherent entity. Perhaps the director wanted to keep the audience at the edges of their seats, but the “twists in the tale” act as mere distractions, and do not provide any thrills at all. Ditto for the one-joke acts of Vivek Shauq and Rajesh Vivek, that are thrown in for the obligatory comic relief. Way too many songs don’t help the cause either.

The pace increases somewhat in the last quarter, but by then the convoluted storyline has worn you out, and you have either trashed your television or killed yourself. To be fair, the story concept is not that bad and I may even have liked it had it been used to write a novel; it is just not a good movie unless the first 2 hours are compressed to 1 hour.

The make-believe situations do nothing to make me believe them. The research is rather lamentable, as is almost standard for Hindi films. While, to its credit the film has mostly used the correct army uniform and insignia, it flops miserably when it comes to research on army operations. Though Kunal Singh is depicted to be in 10 Para Battalion, a special forces paratrooper commando battalion also known as Red Devils, his operations are those of the infantry.

No realism has been attempted through make-up and special-effects, either. The war scenes and dingy PoW camps were prime opportunities to show-off any vision or ability to provide a remote semblance of reality. But Askhay loses no limbs in bomb explosions, sustains no hideous-looking wounds even though he is on top of his petrol bomb exploding over Pak-ammunition, and is not so much as scarred by the “chemical tests” in the PoW camp. Apparently, the worst that could happen to you in a Paki PoW camp is that you won’t get a barber for 2 years. Similarly, all Bobby Deol sustains in the war are mere rashes, even though a grenade explodes right at his feet.

The “peace-talks” scene is banal and boring, and it is rather disconcerting that the Indian and Pakistani representatives address the US representative as if he is in a position of authority, though the dialogs are purportedly directed at the “international community”. I have to admit, though, that I loved the jingoistic and clever pre-meeting dialog where the Indian representative tells the Paki counterpart, “Teen baar to hum kar chuke hain yuddh mein, abki baar kya chahte hain (aap)? Chautha?” *We’ve beaten you three times already in war. What do you want now? Funeral (it is a wordplay – chautha can be translated to mean either “fourth” or a post-funeral ritual)?*

Shaktimaan’s dialog is melodramatic and mostly impactful though it comes across as corny on occasion. Some of Akshay Kumar’s numerous “shers” (couplets) are pretty good, actually:

अबके सावन में ये शरारत हमारे साथ हुई
हमारा घर छोड़ के सारे शहर में बरसात हुई
Abke saawan mein ye shararat hamare saath hui
Hamara ghar chhod ke saare shehar mein barsaat hui
(This year’s monsoon has done a mischief with me
It has rained in the entire city except for my thirsty house)

चलो, हम अपना हुनर आज़माते हैं,
तुम तीर आज़माना, हम जिगर आजमाते हैं
Chalo, hum apna hunar aazmate hain,
Tum teer aazmana, hum jigar aazmaate hain
(Let’s test our respective skills
You test your arrows, I’ll test my heart/courage)

हूँ मैं परवाना, मगर कोई शम्मा तो हो, रात तो हो,
जान देने को हूँ हाज़िर, कोई बात तो हो
Hoon main parwana, magar koi shamma to ho, raat to ho,
Jaan dene ko hoon haazir, koi baat to ho
(I could be a moth, only if there was a flame at night,
I could die for you, only if you had the charm)

The girl says: मैं कुछ अर्ज़ करना चाहती हूँ Main kuchh arz karna chahti hoon ( I want to say something)
अब इन खातून से क्या खेलें,
ये तो अभी से अर्ज़ करने लग गईं
Ab in khatoon se kya khelen,
Ye to abhi se arz karne lag gain
(How can I keep playing with this lady,
She is already appealing for mercy – wordplay…arz can be translated to either “say” or “petition”)

Finally, while the film is dedicated to Indo-Pak friendship, and even ends with that premise, the concept is used obviously superfluously in the film. A kind Subedar Abdul and a “reformed” Colonel Ashfaque Khan are the token nice Paki guys, apart from the faceless Pakistan government that comes around.

My verdict: Avoidable. Borderline, if compressed to 2 hrs.

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