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Memories of War

Friday, February 17, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

This week’s release 'The Ghazi Attack' is based on an unknown incident during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. War films are generally not a favourite with Bollywood filmmakers, so the war that resulted in the formation of Bangladesh has not been documented too well in cinema.

Back in 2007, Amrit Sagar had made a film called '1971', which harked back to that period, but was not set during the war. The National Award winning film had Manoj Bajpayee heading an ensemble cast of theatre actors who, in the intervening decade, have made a name for themselves—actors like Manav Kaul, Kumid Mishra, Piyush Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal and Satyajeet Sharma.

The film was set in 1977, in a Pakistani prisoner-of-war camp, that holds a bunch of Indian soldiers. Major Suraj Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) has been caught trying to escape and interrogated. Prisoners from other jails in Pakistan have been brought to this camp for a reason they figure out later.

Major Suraj Singh and his men discover that they are in a place not too far from the Indo-Pak border, and some of them plan to escape, against the advice of their Colonel, who believes that a failed attempt would get them killed or ruin their chances of being repatriated.

Later, they learn that General Zia-Ul-Haq has seized power and declared that there were no POWs in Pakistani jails and had even allowed human rights groups to conduct checks. Which is why prisoners from all over were dumped in this camp in godforsaken Chaklala. Six soldiers plan to escape and start their careful planning. They target Pakistani Independence Day when there is a concert by a ghazal singer, to create a stampede and make a dash for it.

They manage to get out of the camp in a stolen truck after losing one comrade, but reaching the Indian border needs a lot more effort since a Pakistani search party is after them too. After their friends sacrifice their lives, three of them survive the nail-biting chase and reach the point from where they have to walk across to the border.

The film tipped often into melodrama, but sincerely depicted the courage and nobility of the soldiers, and did not aim for a happy ending. The filmmaker wanted to draw the attention of the public to the tragedy of prisoners of war in Pakistan. The film won awards but did not do well at the box-office—perhaps it came out a few years before its time. Audiences today are more receptive to well-made films without stars.

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