Film: “Paltan”; Director: J.P. Dutta; Cast: Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Gurmeet Choudhary, Harshvardhan Rane, Siddhanth Kapoor, Luv Sinha, Rohit Roy, Abhilash Chaudhary, Nagender Choudhary, Abdul Qadir Amin, Esha Gupta, Sonal Chauhan, Dipika Kakar, Monica Gill; Rating: **1/2
Based on a true story, this J.P. Dutta’s film opens with a scene of high tension that soon transports the viewer exactly where he or she would never want to be, in a war zone on the Indo-China Border.
After an intense prologue, which shows the Chinese aggression during the 1962 and 1965 attacks on the banks of the Namka Chur River in Arunachal Pradesh, the narrative settles on the Nathu La and Cho La clashes of 1967. The film depicts the series of military clashes between India and China alongside the border of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, then an Indian protectorate.
Paltan is the tale of the platoon from the Rajputana Rifles, under the command of Major General Sagat Singh (Jackie Shroff). On the ground level the platoon is led by Lieutenant Colonel Rai Singh Yadav (Arjun Rampal). He is seconded by Major Bhishen Singh (Sonu Sood) and Major Harbhajan Singh (Harshavardhan Rane) and they are assisted by Captain Prithvi Singh Dagar (Gurmeet Chaudhary). Each one of them have their moments of on-screen glory.
The watch-keepers living on the barren land, march in single file whenever they have a scuffle with their Chinese counterparts. Their face-offs seem legendary, which always seem to end on a dubious note, with “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai”.
Designed in a formulaic manner, the narrative of this war film is interspersed with the personal lives of the protagonists. Each one has his share of onscreen personal moments, either with their parents, wife or fiancé. So if you have seen any of J.P. Dutta’s earlier films, then this is no different. The novelty in the treatment is missing.
What’s more, the film seems to have been lazily packaged. There are several instances that makes you want to reject the film. For one, the English dialogues which Jackie Shroff frequently breaks into. Two, the plot meanders for the better part of the film. Probably, that’s what gears us to the third act, which is something bad is going to happen and that takes too long to come. And thirdly, you crack up when Colonel Rai Singh Yadav’s wife essayed by Esha Gupta in an emotional parting scene turns up with false eye lashes and baby in arms to bid farewell to her husband who is going to join his posting.
The dialogues too are run-off the mill and uninspiring.
Except for the finale action sequences, the better half of the film is drab. But what comes out strongly is the delay in the response from the high command. It’s pathetic to hear, the Major General pleading to his higher-ups, “We delay, we lose men. I hope you understand”, when he is seeking permission to use the Artillery to combat the Chinese.
The film is packaged with excellent production values, but overall, this is just another derivative of Dutta’s film Border in a fresh avatar.
(Troy Ribeiro can be reached at [email protected])