1971 (3 stars)


(12) 135min (Studio 18 DVD retail)


Debut writer/director Amrit Sagar’s factional action adventure, follows 54 Indian POWs gathered from Pakistan’s national prisons and herded into a secret POW camp close to the border, where Major Suraj Singh (Manoj Bajpai) leads a daring escape attempt. Male bonding, macho camaraderie, and light comic moments stylistically emulate Hollywood’s WW2/Vietnam POW genre, only this being Bollywood, with less arduous brutality and a couple of ‘authentic’ musical numbers (accompanied by steel cooking utensils) thrown in.

Not all Pakistani officials are depicted as jingoistic bug-eyed bogeymen (Deewar, LOC Kashmir), nevertheless, only female Pakistanis are compassionate/morally righteous, while the sole Muslim Indian POW enables the escape with a suicide bombing!

Sagar’s real success lies in the overtones of hierarchical military structures on both sides and drama of political duplicity, bravado, and strenuous army politics.

This is The Great Escape in the Punjab, (complete with hillside motorcycle chase) - entertaining, earnest and adventurous, questioning the futile ‘border’ obsession of two close adversaries. Extras include cast and production interviews and a short behind the scenes documentary.

(Ghazala Butt)

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