This week’s release 'Tubelight',is set in 1962, during the war between India and China. Very few films have referred to that era—maybe because India suffered a crippling defeat. But soon after the war, while the wounds were still raw, Chetan Anand made 'Haqeeqat' about Indian soldiers fighting courageously under inhuman conditions, with inadequate equipment and the Government dithering sending them to certain death.
The black-and-white film, with songs like 'Ab tumhare hawaale watan sathiyon', wore its patriotism on its sleeve, and back then nobody accused it of jingoism. Now that the Hindi films are minting money in China, they will have to soft-pedal the ‘enmity.’
Today, the film appears to be melodramatic and perhaps, propagandist, but it still remains the best war film made in India—it fearlessly said what needed to be said against the Government’s lack of preparation, major tactical errors and excessive trust in the Panchsheel Agreement. The film made the audience proud of the loyalty and bravery of the Indian soldiers and also made them weep at their suffering. The families of the soldiers wait for the news anxiously, while the rest of the country celebrates Diwali. Chetan Anand’s script was studded with simple and moving scenes between the soldiers and their families, as well as their sacrifices on the battlefield.
'Haqeeqat' starred Balraj Sahni as the Commanding Officer of the ill-fated platoon, fighting in the snow bound Ladakh, without adequate guns, ammunition or warm clothing. He was supported by a cast of stars and newbies, like Dharmendra, Vijay Anand, Sanjay Khan, Jayant, Jagdav, and Priya Rajvansh (in her debut film) as a Ladakhi girl; the scene of her torture by the Chinese was heart-rending. Even the supporting actors like Sudhir, Macmohan, Ruby Myers, Indrani Mukheree, Chand Usmani and Achala Sachdev excelled in their brief roles.
Madan Mohan composed perhaps the best score of his career, with Kaifi Azmi’s brilliant lyrics for songs like 'Zara si aahat hoti hai', 'Hoke majboor mujhe', 'Main to utha tha' and 'Aaye abki saal Diwali'.
Chetan Anand had handed over the reins of 'Guide' to his brother Vijay to make this film, loosely based on the battle of Rezang La, when soldiers, vastly outnumbered by the Chinese, kept waiting for reinforcements or orders to attack first, and later, to retreat, and gave up their lives to protect that snowbound Ladakh outpost.
Beautifully shot mostly on real locations, ironically with the help of the government, the film is undoubtedly a masterpiece.