3.0 / 5
The film is a fictional account of real events. The Pakistani Air Force destroyed the Bhuj airfield during the Indo-Pak War of 1971, dropping 14 napalm bombs on it. The devastation continued for two weeks, with relentless bomb and rocket attacks. 300 people, most of them women, hailing from the nearby village of Madhapur, came to the Air Force rescue at that time. Working mainly at night, they repaired the runway in 72 hours under the direction of squad leader Vijay Karnik. In fact, it was a remarkable feat and was one of the factors that decided the war in India’s favor, as the IAF was able to remain operational. Pakistan’s intention was to capture Bhuj and use him as a negotiating tool, but resistance from our troops and ordinary citizens saved the day.
Bhuj: The Pride Of India, tells the story of his heroism, albeit in a very dramatic way. Vijay Karnik is played by Ajay Devgn here. As stated above, Karnik, although deploying an antiaircraft weapon to great effect, cannot save the near-total destruction of the Bhuj airfield. A parallel story tells us about the sacrifice of the Indian spy Heena Rehman (Nora Fatehi), who before her death can transmit Pakistan’s plans to her Indian handlers. Another thread tells us about Colonel Nair (Sharad Kelkar), who and the 120 soldiers who serve under him are in charge of the crucial Vighakot post. Then we also have the Indian spy Ranchordas Pagi (Sanjay Dutt), who knows the desert like the back of his hand and whose recognition by the Pakistani army is vital to Indian defense. And Ammy Virk plays Flight Lieutenant Vikram Singh Baj Jethaaz, leading the reserve forces to the base. Sonakshi Sinha plays Sunderben Jetha Madharparya, the village woman who inspires others to come to the aid of the IAF. Kannada actress Pranitha Subhash plays Karnik’s wife.
The first half of the film is dedicated to telling short backstories for everyone. We learn that Nora’s character spies for India because her brother, also an Indian spy, was brutally murdered by Pakistanis after being captured. Sharad Kelkar is a tough soldier with a soft heart who has fallen in love with a disabled Muslim girl, Ammy Virk’s wife has passed away, and he is eager to raise their little girl. Sanjay Dutt’s character is obsessed with killing Pakis for personal reasons and Sonakshi Sinha, whose husband is abroad, is a brave heart who can kill a leopard single-handed. The narrative wanders everywhere and your interest begins to waver. However, the drama-filled narrative of the second half more than makes up for the lapses of the first. Sharad Kelkar and Sanjay Dutt are shown to be a two-man army that stopped the advance of Pakistani troops through a mixture of cunning and bravery. While Ajay Devgn, Sonakshi Sinha and Pranitha Subhash race against the clock to finish the track. Ajay’s moment of glory comes when he helps land the transport plane, whose front tire is missing, with the help of a truck. The events are openly dramatized but nevertheless convey the strength and determination of the people involved.
Visual effects, sound design, and background score help transport us to the war zone. What is irritating is the patriotism and religious propaganda, which should have been toned down a bit. Ajay Devgn presents himself as a true patriot willing to give his life for his country. His sincerity, his dedication seeps into every painting. His anger at losing his beloved airfield initially and his stamina to get it working again is real. Sanjay Dutt’s on-screen presence hasn’t faded with age and he’s done other competent work here, just like Sharad Kelkar. Ammy Virk, Sonakshi Sinha, Nora Fatehi, and Pranitha Subhash have also been sincere. Navni Parihar is perfect as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Overall, Bhuj: The Pride Of India brings to life an important aspect of the 1971 war. It’s a good enough history lesson if you choose to ignore the over-the-top narration and attacks on Paki involved in the narration.
Trailer: Bhuj: The Pride of India
Renuka Vyavahare, Aug 13, 2021, 9:30 pm IST
3.0 / 5
HISTORY: During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, 300 Bhuj women risked their lives to restore the bombed-out Indian Air Force airstrip at Bhuj so that it remains operational to defend the incoming Pak air and ground assault. Squad leader Vijay Karnik (Ajay Devgn) encouraged local women to help repair the runway on the warpath. The film recalls the crisis and the contribution of the brave civilians and the Armed Forces of India.
REVISION: The 1971 India-Pakistan War occurred during the Bangladesh Liberation War in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). While India was helping East Pakistan to end the oppressive regime of West Pakistan (now Pakistan), PAK attacked the western regions of India in hopes of using it as a negotiating tool to trade against captured territories in the east. Several Indian air bases were bombed as part of the strategy. Bhuj Air Base was one of the prominent IAF (Indian Air Force) territories that took a massive hit.
On the night of December 8, PAF (Pakistan Air Force) planes dropped more than 14 napalm bombs on the Indian Air Force airstrip in Bhuj. The impact left the runway useless and the Indian fighter jets dysfunctional. The IAF hoped that the Border Security Force (BSF) would restore the runway, but time was passing and manpower was short. It was during this time that 300 villagers, mostly women, from Madhapur in Bhuj, decided to intervene to defend the country by repairing the damaged air base within 72 hours. In Bhuj: The Pride of India, director Abhishek Dudhaiya recalls these anonymous warriors and the story of their incredible bravery, which deserves to be told. Thanks to Ajay Devgn for bringing this act of courage to the screen. However, can the execution match the intention?
Over the years, the behavior of Indian war movies has undergone a dramatic change. From chest-pounding jingoism to humanizing war heroes and seeing them first as people, we’ve come a long way. Even Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) had a moderate sense of personal loss and grief and showed the aftermath of the war under the great josh. War heroes are respected, even revered, but they are no longer cast as invincible. There is a certain honesty in his heroism. That is not the case here.
The creators of Bhuj make it clear in the disclaimer that this film is a work of fiction inspired by true events. This explains his dramatic approach to retelling the story. The film often forgo nuance to play gallery. Although it was done in contemporary times, Dudhaiya’s expression is more faithful to the 90s school of thought, where everything is literally written. Think, JP Dutta’s Border (1997). It also resorts to hyper-nationalism. You could argue that everything is fair in love and war, right? Well, not really when the movie risks making a military operation seem irrational in order to increase the emotional quotient. The loud bhajans that are sung with dhols on the rebuilt airstrip defies logic because it was supposed to be a covert operation that had to evade more incoming bombardments. In fact, Bhuj women were reported to have to wear green and cow dung was used on the strip to camouflage it from PAF planes. One can ignore the drama, but on a premise like this, changing the logic at the cost of dramatization seems difficult to digest. The writing could have been more conscious.
The first half is peppered with various characters in cameos giving brave speeches without context. The description of the events that led to the attack on the Bhuj air base is messy. However, the movie redeems itself in the second half, as that’s where the live action and drama takes place. In this regard, it is a gripping thriller that keeps you engaged. From 120 soldiers guarding the Vighakot post and defending the country to witnessing a plane lean the front end of a truck to land, the action game (realistic and unrealistic) is up to the task. Even aerial combat scenes keep you focused.
Sound and visuals are made for the big screen. While the VFX is strictly acceptable, the sound is competent enough to transport you to the battlefield. Ajay Devgn’s slow motion shots are enough and he gets his character intensity just right. Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharad Kelkar, and Ammy Virk are decent too. Among the cameos, casting Navni Parihar as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi works well.
If you can ignore the religious propaganda and focus solely on the story, Bhuj is an interesting watch, despite the initial setbacks.