For any decent war movie to work, it has to offer two fronts: thrills and technical sophistry. bhuj, which is inspired by a real event in 1971, fails on both counts. it’s emotionally empty and weak, and technically more like a canceled mobile game than a movie.
at the height of the bangladesh liberation war, india intervened by rallying troops to the east. this left bhuj, with its strategically important air base, open to attack. Pakistani sabers bombed the airbase to smithereens. With a siege looming, squad leader Vijay Karnik, the base’s commanding officer, mobilized 300 women from a nearby village and rebuilt their airstrip. His valiant undertaking, completed in just 72 hours, proved instrumental in the war, and Karnik was promoted to wing commander in 1985.
that, at least, is the real story of bhuj. In the film, director Abhishek Dudhaiya plays fast and loose with the facts, unnecessarily embellishing what is already a dramatic and inspiring story. opening hour is dizzying enough to cause dizziness. it goes from a massive airstrike to random character introductions and back to more airstrike. ajay devgn, writing vijay karnik, seems definitely lost. When told that 40 of his men are dead, he looks momentarily hurt and then simply orders the area cleared.
Reading: Bhuj movie review
Reading bhuj’s synopsis, I expected the 300 women from the village of madhapur to be the anchor of the story. but the film treats them as a sideshow, focusing instead on a parallel campaign to stop the oncoming Pakistani army. nora fatehi pulls the shortest straw as an indian spy. her character, heena, is trapped across borders; Instead of being immediately executed, she is taken to a religious meeting and stoned to death. however, dudhaiya isn’t done hammering away, and we get other glimpses of the film’s warped politics. Animal protection is mentioned twice: first when Ranchhod Pagi (Sanjay Dutt) kills a group of soldiers for their cattle, second when Sunderben (Sonakshi Sinha) steps in to save a cow.
the battle sequences are a mess. instead of gradually building up a conflict, we are hit by action every time. the film is always aiming for maximum impact, which only ensures that there is no impact. some of the war strategies are clever (using soda bottles as Molotov cocktails), while others seem dubious. At one point, Karnik, surrounded by enemy bombs, strings them together and lights a match, a technique more suited to Diwali celebrations than the battlefield. even stranger is a scene where ranchhod runs through the trenches towards an incoming tank. he jumps right into it, and you marvel at how dutt’s intricate dhoti stays in place.
in a nutshell reading bhuj’s synopsis, I expected the 300 women of madhapur to introduce the story. but the film treats them as a sideshow, focusing instead on a campaign to stop the Pakistani army.
bhuj: the pride of india
cast: ajay devgn, sanjay dutt, sonakshi sinha, nora fatehi, sharad kelkar, ammy virk director:abhishek dudhaiya broadcast on: disney+ hotstar