The premise has you thinking back to Lakshya, Rang De Basanti and Summer 2007. They enlist help from a friend’s cousin who is a war journalist—he tells them to deliver three letters by deceased soldiers to their families and ensures them that this experience would make their film..
Incidentally the two happy-go-lucky students are called Sammy (Sohail Khan, as a student, come now!) and Ali (Vatsal Seth). They hop on their bike and reach their first destination in rural Punjab.
Since the letters are three years old, they encounter how the families of the soldiers are coping. They meet war widow (Zinta) and are moved by the multiple responsibilities she now shoulders. Her husband Balkar Singh (Salman Khan) died during the war and we flashback to see their love story unfold. Second stop for the boys is Himachal, where they meet disabled ex-air force officer Vikram Shergill (Sunny Deol) who lives alone and drinks around the clock.
Glad to have company, Vikram tells the story of his brother Dhananjay (Bobby Deol) who lost his life in war. “But I have no regrets. My family has been giving up their life for the country since generations,” says the brave officer.
He uses the word `garv’ (pride) ever so often, a word that is to become a constant within the film’s dialogue in the reels to come. Reading Dhananjay’s letter about the army not receiving bullet-proof jackets, Vikram is moved, as are you.
This is possibly the only portion in the film where you are completely immersed in the story. His monologue about serving the nation even without joining the army, just doing any thing one can for the country’s progress, is touching indeed. You think this film’s promotion of practical patriotism over jingoistic lines is refreshing.
But a scene later, you see this legless man beating up a circle of goons in a nightclub for hitting on his girlfriend. In another scene, overcome with emotion, he drives his wheelchair after fighter planes in the sky as if trying to catch them, and salutes them. So much for subtlety.
Third up, is letter delivery to army officer Sahil Naqvi’s (Dino Morea) home, where his mother is throwing elaborate tea parties to get her life back on routine, while the father (Mithun Chakraborty) is inconsolably bitter.
This portion has an unintentionally comic scene: that of the son taping a happy message to his parents from the war location, and getting killed right then. This tape recorded message is played to our dazed amateur filmmakers, as they well up with tears for the hundredth time in the film. The other unintentional comedy is the ending, which itch as I may, I cannot reveal.
On the plus side is the balanced approach towards patriotism in the real world, without enemy-bashing. One wishes filmmaker Samir Karnik has kept this tone throughout, instead of falling in the melodramatic mode ever so often.
The film loses its believability when you see Balkar Singh’s tiny son saluting his uniform and vowing to join the army like his father, or when the film tries to make a symbolic gesture by showing an Indian flag kite fall on Pakistani soil.
The story –telling, that has some immersing moments, is marred by the long length and constant flashbacks – a staple of our Bollywood army films. Performance-wise, the film is a treat as every actor does well. It’s particularly delightful to see Preity Zinta, Sunny Deol and Mithun’s rendering of their complex roles. Vatsal looks the part, but is unable to add any depth to his role.
Sohail, a fairly good actor, is out of sorts in a role that he doesn’t look in the first place. Cinematography by Binod Pradhan and Gopal Shah showcases the pristine beauty of Punjab, Himachal and Leh. Writing and editing could have done away with a lot of extraneous material to make the film tighter and more energetic. Dialogue is good, but does slip in the `hamara desh, hamara bharat mahaan’ bit, which sounds unnatural.
An average watch, which could have been a fantastic one.
Verdict: Two stars