Monday, May 22, 2006

"Border" of Sanity

Now I've always been a huge fan of war movies. I greatly admire the Indian Army and am in awe of what our country's soldiers are capable of. Recently I saw what is supposed to be India's most successful and most watched war movie to date - Border. All of you have, I'm sure, seen it. Its part of Republic Day and Independence Day ceremonies just as much as flag hoisting, and march-past and all.

Whenever I saw it before, I found the heroism of the soldiers in the face of tremendous adversity moving and inspiring. I was moved and inspired. Cheeks burning with pride, eyes shining, I'd dream for two entire days about being a soldier. But this time, for the first time, I noticed the discrepancies and glaring editorial mistakes in the film. I'm going to share a few that I noticed straight away, and you can all give me your take on them.

First of all, Sunny Deol and the leader of the Pakistani army seem to be holding a shouting match over and above the noise of the artillery, every now and then throughout the movie. Like the shooting and all stops, and these people enhance each other's vocabulary for a while.

The displays of individual heroism, not only left me unmoved, but even caught me smirking unconsciously at the lack of reality in Bollywood films. There was Sunil Shetty, with his mind-numbing histrionic talents, trying to emote as he walked down the hill with 2 anti-tank mines even as the entire Pakistani force shot at him. [This is after he has been blown off his artillery station by a grenade. He is supposed to be dead but wakes up suddenly, murmuring "Maa and what not" and begins all this naatak.] He walked upto the tank of the main bad-guy-in-chief, who suddenly notices the mines in his hands. He yells at his tank-driver to back up the tank! But Shetty runs along with the tank, with a Jack Nicholson smile on his bloodied face! They go like that for a while -- tank with frightened-out-of-his-wits chap backing and Shetty chasing, tank with idiot-soldier-not-using-his-gun backing and Shetty grinning now, and chasing. Then suddenly with a burst of energy, mostly in the form of sound, Shetty breaks into a run and dives behind the tank with the mines. The tank blows up as Shetty's victorious scream echoes through the battlefield. A blend of "Yaaaaaaa!!!!" because of the pain and all, and "Maaaaa!!!" because he always does that. The result was like a "yaa-maaaha!", the first recorded instance of in-film brand advertising. The Indian unit seems to pause from shooting and all of time stops, everyone suddenly either reloading their guns or musing on the decibel levels shatter-able by Bollywood filmstars.

Akshay Khanna was also in the movie. He has considerable romantic reel in the film, which is the only excuse I can offer for that stupid grin that he wears all the time. In the initial frames, his interest is more towards his co-actress than valiantly dying for his country, but towards the end he shapes up alright. His moment of glory is when he's rolling down the Indians' embankment carrying two Paki soldiers with him. Once he gets up and kills them with a slash of his knife, he finds himself caught in some sort of spotlight coming from the Pakistani tanks. For exactly one whole minute, he stands there just like that, in a sort of crouch, and then finally slowly gets up. He walks casually, grin in place, across the barb wires and reaches the other end. At that point, I suppose, it suddenly occurs to the Pakistani general that this sort of stuff ain't gonna be tolerated, so he orders his men to shoot. Shoot they do, but Akshay's too fast. Its an often-proven rule of Hindi movies that, and I quote - If hero is shot at by 20 gunmen [scum such as Kaalia, Raakaa, Samba, Raabert or miscellaneous Paki soldiers] then they will not be able to shoot him down without losing atleast half of their number. If they even manage to get him that is. Unquote. One day, I will tell you about the experiences I have had with Mithunda movies, and you will see what I mean. For now, check out this post by GreatBong.

Akshay falls ultimately, in the tragic-hero-who-has-given-up-life-for-nation-thus-sacrificing-family-happiness style, on the barbed wires and sways on it gently. He falls, but he does not die. Indian soldiers do not really die until they are dragged by Sunny Deol back to their encampment. Once he rescues the poor soldiers, he gives them a dose of Sunny-treatment, that is to say he screams at them from all of 2 feet away to "Move!! Move !! Mooovvvve!!!!". They then reminisce about their family and loved ones with the aid of Anu Malik music and slowly the light fades from their eyes. Akshay Khanna dies.

Akshay Khanna dead, Sunil Shetty dead, the chef who cracks the jokes dead. Sunny Deol cannot be killed. This is another universal law proved in more films than I can count upto. Whatever you do, you cannot kill the man. End of story. So its no surprise when, seeing all the dead bodies, Sunny paaji grimfaced packs grenades on his body, picks up a rocket launcher [which was stashed away till the end of the movie in order to shock and awe the Pakistanis] and marches out shouting "Jo bole so blah blah!!!". He launches rockets and stuff from it. Then takes out his knife to personally rip apart the entire army. He even personally blows up 3-4 tanks by dropping grenades inside them from the chimney opening at the top. Sunny Deol = Santa Claus in battle-gear!

There is, I distinctly remember, a scene where he takes a bullet in the leg after he has rescued Akshay Khanna from the barbed wire and is strutting back to the Indian dressing-room. Another scene when he is shot in the chest [cleverly enough, its the right side so you know its not the heart and he cant possibly die because of it]. But by the end of the movie, he is back to clean and neat uniform, albeit with some dust on the pagdi but thats excusable, and strutting around the battlefield with his living comrades. I repeat, you cannot harm a baal on Sunny's head. And that is not a pun for the pagdi he's wearing.

Border inspired lots of people, and has been hailed as India's greatest war movie, but I found it hopelessly unreal and overtly macho on far too many occasions. After having seen The Thin Red Line, on which this movie was based, and masterpieces such as Saving Private Ryan, you begin to understand the sheer vastness of a battlefield and the incredible atmosphere that surrounds a normal soldier. Border's football field sized battle ground, endless harping on ethereal Bollywood concepts of "Maa! Mein jaa raha hoon!" and Dhartimaa ka karz philosophy leaves me unmoved now. Unmoved except for the laughter that shakes me involuntarily, when I see Sunny's angry boy expression. Or Sunil Shetty when he was playing peekaboo with Pakistani tankmen.

I know I'm being a little too satirical about this blockbuster of the 90s. I cant explain the reason for the sudden cynicism that I have developed about Bollywood. Maybe Akshay Khanna's dying scene wasnt quite as ludicrous as I make it out to be. It could be because I was listening to music on my iPod at the moment that I couldn't absorb the scene's gravity. My burst of laughter at his death, I know, was thoroughly justified and I defend it. Just as he fell on the barbed wire, riddled with bullets, Daniel Powter began on my iPod - "Aw So you had a bad day, You're takin one down, You sing a sad song, Just to turn it around...You had a bad daaaayyyy, you had a bad day!" Am I to be blamed? The agony of his mother's wails, his flashbacks of fun and frolics with Pooja Bhatt in the village fields, were completely lost to me.

1 comment:

kyra said...

*laughs out loud (for real, not coz there's nothin else to say)*

however, i have better things to do than discuss my take on the 'discrepancies and glaring editorial mistakes in the film.'

by the way, brilliant word usage.
i do know how to give compliments, don't i?