Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Celebrating Shaurya

Watched a rather interesting film the other day: Shaurya. It was interesting firstly because we saw a film in a theatre after a long time (the cellphone-toting South Delhi lout-infested PVR Saket, in case anyone’s asking). Secondly, and much more importantly, because it’s the first mainstream Hindi film that openly criticises the Army. And thirdly, the acting is uniformly good.

All these factors make it an “interesting” film. Not a great one. Or even a particularly good one. All right, I have personally always disliked the Army. And it has nothing to do with non-violence or anything. I don’t like the Army because of a number of reasons which don’t need to be enumerated here.

But in the context of Shaurya; it’s important that the most important negative of the Army is highlighted in a moderately sensible way here. This has to do with the human rights violations that the Army routinely commits in many parts of the country – notably in the Kashmir Valley and in the North-East. I am hardly the first one to talk about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and I am not going to be last one. Nor am I going to be the most educated of criticisers of the act. But it is an Act that can only exist in the Trash Can and nowhere else.

In Shaurya, this aspect of the Army is highlighted big time – in fact, that’s the film’s central theme. A far cry from the series of films that have, down the years, glorified the Army beyond reasonable limits. I do admit that the Army has a melodramatic appeal that can’t be ignored. And as a populist (and commercially viable) option, glorification of the Army would also be more sensible than a demystification of it. Fauj and all that. The great Indian obsession – Operation West End be damned!

Samar Khan’s Shaurya takes the road less-travelled and makes some strong points and that is significant. Yes, in the hands of a better director, the film could have become much stronger. But then better directors than Khan have never chosen to make the same statement. So we’ll have to live with it.

PS: Caught a slew of moderately good films in recent times:
Atonement (2.5 stars)
No Country For Old Men (3.5 stars)
There Will Be Blood (3.5 stars)
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (3 stars)
Juno (2.5 stars)
Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (4.5 stars)
PPS: Musicals, crime and Johnny Depp – three of my favourite things. Together, it doesn’t get better. And Sweeney Todd lived up to the promise. From the red paint animation in the beginning to the last frame.