|Daily Times - Site Edition||Thursday, June 24, 2004|
THE HISTORY MAN: Bollywood’s Kargil —Ihsan Aslam
Javed Akhtar says, “You cannot ignore history”. But you can certainly make a film giving your version of the history. It is now over to Lollywood for ‘Kargil 2: The Return of the Jihadis’ or ‘October 12: The Return of the Generals’
‘Lakshya’, one of the most expensive Bollywood productions, seems to have been released to mark the fifth anniversary of the Kargil crisis, the Indo-Pak tussle over Kashmir during May-July, 1999. Although focussed on India’s successful Operation Vijay against ‘Pakistani-backed freedom fighters’ who had taken control of the strategic heights in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the film is supposedly ‘not a recruitment film for the Indian Army’ but about a confused lad discovering the aim (lakshya) of his life.
“It took him 24 years and 18000 feet to find himself,” says the poster for Lakshya, which was released on June 18 and shown over the weekend at Cambridge’s new multi-screen complex Cineworld (near the railway station, if you’re interested). Hrithik Roshan plays the clueless young brat who drifts about aimlessly in life. He is so ‘hrithick’ that he is puzzled about why he is the way he is. The song ‘Main aisa kyon hoon’ (why am I like this?), which sees the lanky Roshan doing some incredible free-flowing dance moves, is a brilliant example of modern Bollywood.
Roshan’s partner in the film is Priety Zinta and together they dance around Delhi singing ‘Agar main kahoon’, the other highlight of the film. Except for another romantic number about separation and pain, the rest of the tunes are a bit of a bore. ‘Kandhaun se milte hain kandhe’ is your ‘shoulder to shoulder we stand’ ultra-patriotic number about melting stones, shadowing mountains, and striking fear in the hearts of those damn Pakistanis across the border. Equally sickening nationalistic tunes inspire Pakistani jawans on the other side of the Wagah border.
Roshan shines in this film, and that’s without taking his shirt off and flashing those huge biceps of his. Our hero discovers the aim of his life is to join the army, and to retake a strategic position in Kashmir and to hoist the Indian flag there. All this is quite well done, without the usual excessive jingoism. There is, of course, a certain feel-good factor for the Indian viewers, but the Pakistanis don’t come out entirely bad.
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase ‘I’ll be back’ in Terminator, it is said of Pakistani/Kashmiri fighters that ‘they always come back’. That is, they won’t give up on Kashmir. Which means that since the Indians won’t let go either, we will continue to see conflict in the region for the foreseeable future. While the politicians and the khakis play their games, the ordinary folk of Kashmir, India and Pakistan continue to suffer. This aspect — the suffering of the poor people of the area — is hardly covered in Lakshya.
Instead, Lakshya presents a view of the Kargil Crisis (even referred by some as the ‘Fourth Indo-Pak war’) from the perspective of the Indian soldier. It tries to depict soldiers as people. One of Jawad Ahmed’s videos does the same thing (about comradeship, courage, injury and death). These are Indian and Pakistani tributes to their soldiers. This is all very well, but the suffering masses need to be respected as well.
Lakshya is not a war documentary. It is not complete fiction, either. It is part fiction, part fact. It is set in 1999 and based closely on the Kargil Crisis. Actual footage of the then Indian and Pakistani prime ministers is shown. The latter part of the film has a very newsy feel because of Priety Zinta’s role as a TV war reporter. The war scenes (all shot in the dark) are realistic as is the depiction of death and injury. “Why war?” one wonders, but there is no answer other than the one about holding one’s national flag high on some blasted high-altitude ridge along the Line of Control.
While Bollywood films are famous for showing lovers chasing each other in picturesque mountain scenes in places such as Switzerland, Lakshya portrays the mountains as menacing, the mountains over which an undeclared war is being fought. It reminds one of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Eiger Sanction’ and Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Cliffhanger’. Actually shot high up in Ladakh, the cinematography is excellent.
“You cannot ignore history,” says Lakshya’s scriptwriter and Bollywood’s famous lyricist Javed Akhtar. And the Indians won’t forget Kargil too easily. Javed’s son Farhan Akhtar has already made history with his debut ‘Dil Chahta Hai (2001),’ the trendy blockbuster with an urban setting. Young Farhan Akhtar, who belongs to a new breed of Bollywood directors with a very fresh approach, is now back with his second offering, ‘Lakshya’.
As his father says, “You cannot ignore history”, but you can certainly make a film giving your version of the history. It is now over to Lollywood for ‘Kargil 2: The Return of the Jihadis’ or ‘October 12: The Return of the Generals’.
Ihsan Aslam is a Cambridge based writer interested in biography and history. He can be contacted at email@example.com or visited at http://www.pakistanhistory.com
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