Something happens to us when it comes to India vs Pakistan. Our emotions get the better of us. We become tense, angry and the inner patriot hiding inside us is rudely awakened -- and ready for battle.
Debutant director Sankalp Reddy uses these emotions to the maximum in Ghazi, India's first war-at-sea film. If the idea of naval warfare was not fascinating enough, the meticulous manner in which everything is shown -- the sets, the characters and the twists and turns at every corner, makes it a spectacle worth remembering. Ghazi grips you from the first frame to the last and stays true to the genre, which is a rarity in Indian cinema.
The film is set in 1971 and begins at the Pakistani naval headquarters in Karachi, where senior officers hatch a plot to attack to destroy INS Vikrant in a classified naval operation. They deploy their strongest submarine, Ghazi, led by their most ruthless commander captain, Razzaq (Rahul Singh).
The Indian navy gets a whiff of their designs and decides to carry out a counter-terrorism operation by sending submarine S-21 (INS Rajput) to tackle the threat. S-21 is led by the fierce and war-hungry commander captain Ranvijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon), who's accompanied by the more pragmatic Lt. Commander Arjun Varma (Rana Daggubati). While the instructions are to 'wait and watch', Captain Ranvijay believes in a more offensive policy, as he often says, "The duty of a soldier is not laying your life for the country, but to locate the enemy and eliminate them."
Even as both the officers continue to bicker over strategy and tactics, officer Devaraj (Atul Kulkarni) tries to be the mediator. Devaraj's character is especially interesting. As a father-to-be, there's a lot at stake for his safe return, and yet he remains fiercely loyal to the trigger-happy Ranvijay and remains a stickler for rules. But it's Kay Kay Menon who steals the show. The actor shows his class in every frame he appears in. He's aggressive, alert, ruthless and a master tactician at the same time. But there is a telling moment, when Devaraj breaks the news of him being a father to him. The captain shows his lighter side and speaks about life after the mission. It's only for a brief moment though, as submarine Ghazi gets closer to the coast of Visakhapatnam. In Ranvijay's eyes, the war has already begun.
There's a lot to like about Ghazi. For one, the makers stay true to the genre. There are no distractions, no flashbacks, love stories or songs to break the narrative. They could've done without roping in Taapsee Pannu as a Bangladeshi refugee (who Rana jumps off the submarine and saves in superhuman fashion). She also happens to be a doctor and helps heal the wounds of injured soldiers (so convenient). But these are small aberrations.
The attention to detail is brilliant. Adding to the stunning visual effects, each aspect of the submarine is shown in detail. The tactical battle at the end as INS Rajput and INS Ghazi face-off is compelling.
Rana Daggubati comes of age as an actor. The transition of his character -- from playing the pragmatic officer to taking control of the proceedings -- is most intriguing. There's a moment where Kay Kay asks Kulkarni, "Why is he speaking our language?" when Rana speaks about attacking. There's no stopping him from that moment and he makes Ghazi his own.
The director takes more than a fair share of cinematic liberties, but then again the film does come with a disclaimer. Ghazi makes you clap, shout, whistle and gasp as the war-at-sea takes place in full swing. The Pakistani counterparts are projected as strong opponents, as opposed to the stereotypical villains. You do begin to wonder if the makers have taken it a bit too far when the Indian soldiers use patriotic songs to distract their opponents, but when it comes to India vs Pakistan, would we want it any other way?
|Film||The Ghazi Attack|
|Cast||Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon, Atul Kulkarni, Taapsee Pannu|