'Bhuj: The Pride of India' movie review: A noisy, clunky war epic

For any decent war film to work, it must deliver on two fronts: emotion and technical sophistry. Bhuj, which takes its cue from a real event in 1971, fails on both counts.

Published: 16th August 2021 07:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th August 2021 07:50 AM   |  A+A-

Ajay Devgn in 'Bhuj: The Pride of India'

Ajay Devgn in 'Bhuj: The Pride of India'

By Express News Service

For any decent war film to work, it must deliver on two fronts: emotion and technical sophistry. Bhuj, which takes its cue from a real event in 1971, fails on both counts. It’s emotionally vacant and limp, and technically resembles a cancelled mobile game instead of a film.

At the peak of the Bangladesh Liberation War, India intervened by rallying troops to the east. This left Bhuj, with its strategically-important airbase, open to attack. Pakistani Sabres bombed the airbase to smithereens. With a siege imminent, squadron leader Vijay Karnik, the base’s commanding officer, mobilised 300 women from a nearby village and rebuilt its landing strip. Their brave venture, completed in just 72 hours, proved pivotal in the war, and Karnik was promoted to Wing Commander in 1985.

That, at least, is the real-life story of Bhuj. On film, director Abhishek Dudhaiya plays fast and loose with facts, needlessly embellishing what is already a dramatic and inspiring story. The opening hour is dizzying enough to cause motion sickness. It flits from a massive airstrike to haphazard character intros and back to more airstrikes. Ajay Devgn, who essays Vijay Karnik, looks positively lost. Told that 40 of his men are dead, he looks momentarily pained, then simply orders the area be cleared.

Reading the synopsis of Bhuj, I expected the 300 women of Madhapur village to anchor the story. But the film treats them as a sideshow, focusing instead on a parallel campaign to stop the approaching Pakistani army. Nora Fatehi draws the shortest straw as an Indian spy. Her character, Heena, is caught across borders; instead of being executed right away, she’s taken to a religious gathering and stoned to death. Dudhaiya isn’t done hammering, though, and we get other glimpses of the film’s warped politics. Animal protection is brought up twice: first when Ranchhod Pagi (Sanjay Dutt) kills a bunch of soldiers over his cattle, second when Sunderben (Sonakshi Sinha) steps up to save a cow. 

The battle sequences are a mess. Instead of gradually building up to a conflict, we’re pummeled with action throughout. The film is always aiming for maximum impact-which only guarantees no impact. Some of the war strategies are smart (using soda bottles as Molotov cocktails) while others look dubious. At one point, Karnik, surrounded by enemy bombs, strings them together and lights a match, a technique better suited for Diwali celebrations than the battlefield. Even stranger is a scene where Ranchhod dashes across the trenches at an incoming tank. He leaps right on it, and you marvel at how Dutt’s intricate dhoti stays in place.

In a nutshell
Reading the synopsis of Bhuj, I expected the 300 women of Madhapur to anchor the story. But the film treats them as a sideshow, focusing instead on a campaign to stop the Pakistani army.

Bhuj: The Pride of India

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Nora Fatehi, Sharad Kelkar, Ammy Virk
Director:Abhishek Dudhaiya
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar


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