This Paltan lacks punch

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Sep 2018 13:03:21



By Aasawari Shenolikar,

J P Dutta, with his Paltan, tries to relive a not so well-known chapter in the Indian military history - the repeated skirmishes that happened at Nathula between India and China in the year 1967. His pulse pounding Border and later LOC Kargil were steeped in patriotic fervour and touched the emotional chord of every viewer. Has he able to create similar magic with Paltan, the third one in his trilogy of war movies?

Recreating the tension between India and China, Paltan is set in the year 1967, a time when Sikkim, a Protectorate had requested the Indian Government to look after its borders. The Chinese intend to infiltrate and take over the territory. The Indian Army was standing guard on the other side, protecting the international border and thwarting every attempt by the Chinese Army. The aggressors, still flushed with the 1962 win over India, time and again tried every theory from their ‘little red book’ to overcome the Indians.

The Indians, on the other hand, after having learned a lesson earlier, were ready to take on the Chinese and not for once did they give in to the psychological warfare tricks that the Chinese used every now and then. Wary of their oft-chanting of ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’, the Indian Army led by Lt Col Rai (Arjun Rampal), Major Harbhajan Singh (Harshwardhan Rane), Major Bishen Singh (Sonu Sood) Captain Prithvi Dagar (Gurmeet Chaudhary), and their boss Maj General Sagat Singh (Jackie Shroff) successfully led their paltan to fight against the Chinese in very hostile terrains. The many skirmishes erupted into a full fledged war with the artillery joining in when India decide to put an end to the border issue by constructing a fence.

Pulsating action, a part and parcel of any war movie, comes into effect during the fag end of the movie. It is then that the screen comes alive. Before this, for most part of the running time, Paltan is an agonisingly tedious journey. After the mandatory introduction of the various characters, Dutta, when not filming a scene where the Chinese and the Indian soldiers are facing each other across a border demarcated by stones with their bayonets, at regular intervals brings across back stories of all the major players. For some it is their wives and children, for others it is the fiancées and girl friends. So the story, essentially, doesn’t move. Only the characters move to and fro from the international border.

Dutta’s approach towards the whole exercise seems too laid back and what ultimately translates on the screen is an extremely lethargic build up of an offensive that spanned a week at the Nathula, involving the Sino-Indian border. Because its not fleshed out properly, the easy camaraderie, so visible in Dutta’s earlier ventures is sorely missing here. Events, including the exchange of dialogues, appear forced. It abounds in clichés -a couple of gems - ‘No guts, no glory, no legends, no story’ and the very famous 'The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war'.  In a story based on border wars, there is hardly any action, no covert operations, and almost no strategies being planned to be one up on the enemy. Hence, there is no buildup of tension or any edge of the seat thrilling moments.

Talking of the cast, the character development is too sketchy. Jackie Shroff hardly makes his presence felt. Arjun Rampal, the man incharge, should have had a commanding presence. But like always, he carries one expression throughout the film and is listless, a commander without any grit. Countering his attitude are two overly energetic lads Rane and Gurmeet, who are always in the forefront - their attitude totally belligerent. And when they mouth dialogues like ‘Meri asthiya gaon ke khet mein mila dena’ you know for sure that there is going to be a Suneil Shetty (Border) moment here too. Sonu Sood delivers what is expected of him. Luv Sinha and Siddhanth Kapoor have lacklustre roles. All the girls - Monica Gill. Dipika Samson, Esha Gupta, Sonal Chauhan - have practically nothing to do in the movie.

Paltan, that could have been a pulsating, a tense and moving tribute to the warriors who fought and defeated the enemy, and to those brave souls who laid down their lives protecting the nation from the aggressors, lacks the power, lacks any punch. This war drama falls short in many departments. In the end, Dutta’s Paltan doesn't live up to expectations.

The Hitavada Rating: OO