1962: The War in the Hills scores a small win in its opening scene. As Major Suraj Singh (Abhay Deol) prepares to leave, his wife, Shagun (Mahie Gill), softly interrogates him. At this point all you can do is smile, since it’s the same onscreen pairing from Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D.
It’s a fine reunion. Both Abhay and Mahie look decidedly middle-aged, missing the freshness and enthusiasm they showed in 2009. “This is them now,” the scene appears to say. “Feel old yet?” Through an unnecessary framing device, Mahesh Manjrekar’s series looks at the 1962 Sino-Indian war. India had lost the actual war, which ended with a Chinese ceasefire in the dead of winter.
Since then, the defeat has endured as a source of great trauma and embarrassment in our military history. It was particularly crushing for the soldiers, whose bravery on the battlefield was undermined by scant resources and planning. Manjrekar and writer Charudutt Acharya try to correct this by exalting the fictitious C — Company — a band of 125 Indians who stand up to 3,000 Chinese.
1962 tries more than your average patriotic drama to highlight the private lives of soldiers. There’s an elaborate love triangle involving two of the sepoys and a girl back in their village. Another soldier (Sumeet Vyas), shares a difficult relationship with his son. Early on, Suraj is injured in one foot and is forced to recuperate at home. Shagun has cancer.
These sequences elongate rather than enhance the narrative. There’s also a fatal lack of cohesion a private argument in episode 6 suddenly cuts to Nehru in his chair. As the show progresses, we get to know Suraj and his boys more closely. When Suraj, recovering in bed, is told that one of his comrades has died, not on the battlefield but by accident, he is crestfallen. “His death was meaningless,” Suraj declares. The idea that there’s something innately dignified about war might bother some viewers, while others will accept it just fine.
Film - 1962: The War In The Hills
Cast - Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill, Akash Thosar, Sumeet Vyas, Anup Soni
Director - Mahesh Manjrekar
Streaming on - Disney+ Hotstar