Arms and the men

War films

  • Published 10.09.18

Glorified ever since films began to be made, war movies continue to fascinate us with their edge-of-the-seat immersive experiences and tales of the indomitable human spirit.

J.P. Dutta’s Paltan, based on a face-off between India and China in the late sixties, is the latest. Aniruddha Biswas takes you into the heart of the battlefield to come up with a list of some of the best war movies made in Bollywood.

Haqeeqat (1964): Based on the 1962 Sino-Indian War and directed by ChetanAnand, it won the National Film Award for the second best feature film. A platoon (a sub-division of a company of soldiers, usually forming a tactical unit that is commanded by a lieutenant and divided into three sectors) is presumed dead in Ladakh but is rescued by tribals. The captain decides not to retreat from his post even after the Chinese surround them and try to hold the enemy at bay. Madan Mohan’s musical score is a standout.

Prahaar (1991): The story of Major Chavan, a hard-as-nails officer played to perfection by Nana Patekar, who also directed the movie. It also traces the life of one commando played by Gautam Joglekar. The training sequences are as authentic as they can get though the movie is not a war film in the true sense of the term.

Border (1997): Based on the story of Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, this JP Dutta magnum opus deals with the India-Pakistan Battle of Longewala, Rajasthan, in 1971. A small battalion of Indian soldiers go up against a troop of 2000 Pakistani soldiers. Plenty of action to keep you engrossed.

LOC Kargil (2003): Entirely based on the Kargil War between India and Pakistan in 1999. Another JP Dutta film of epic proportions — an endless cast coupled with a running time of 4 hours — set in the highest battlefield in the world, it’s a grim reminder of just how brutal war can be. The film ticks all the boxes for a gargantuan battlefield drama.

Lakshya (2004): The story of a drifter who finds inspiration in the armed forces. Very slick and urban in treatment, the movie also boasts of a good storyline apart from the visually enticing cinematography. An ensemble cast adds to the delight. A different take on a coming-of-age film with a war backdrop.

Deewaar (2004): Said to be inspired from The Great Escape (1963), the epic World War II film, it tells the story of a an Indian Army Major who is captured and taken to prison in Pakistan and held there for 33 years, along with his colleagues. His son decided to rescue him from the enemy. A thrilling prison-break movie.

Tango Charlie (2005): It is a look into the life of Border Security Force (BSF) jawans. The movie deals with insurgency and extremism in India. Very different from other films as the plot spans various regions, from the Northeast to Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Kashmir. A spectacular film in terms of visuals and picturisation. In one word, a riveting, fast-paced action thriller.

1971 (2007): This war drama is based on the true story of Prisoners of War (POW) after the India-Pakistan War of 1971. It’s about six Indian prisoners who wait for freedom. When patience runs out, they decide to bolt and hatch an escape plan. Shot in scenic landscapes, the film is pacy with no predictable gimmicks.

Madras Cafe (2013): Shot as a documentary where Major Vikram Singh is appointed by the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) to carry out covert operations in Jaffna (Sri Lanka). He finds himself in the middle of a civil war and a conspiracy to assassinate a former Indian Prime Minister. An edge-of-the-seat ride. Period.

The Ghazi Attack (2017): An offbeat war film as it focuses on the Indian Navy rather than the army. It is based on the mysterious sinking of the PNS Ghazi during the India-Pakistan War of 1971, off the coast of Visakhapatnam. A gripping tale set inside a submarine in the depths of the ocean. This story of patriotism and courage is a must-watch.

Parmanu (2018): Set in 1995, it is about India’s nuclear mission.  After a botched attempt in becoming a nuclear state after US Lacrosse satellites spots the operation, the protagonist is called back for a covert operaton to lead an elite team. Inspired by true events, the film is intense in parts with no national jingoism.