1962: The War In The Hills review - The thrilling tale is crushed under tacky visual effects and lack of nuance

A story such as this deserved much more nuance and heart

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 2/5

Monday 01 March 2021

Movie Title

1962: The War In The Hills review - The thrilling tale is crushed under tacky visual effects and lack of nuance


Mahesh Manjrekar

Star Cast

Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill, Akash Thosar, Karim Hajee

The disclaimer at the start informs us that the story is inspired by true events and depicts the ’62 Sino-Indian conflict, while also exploring personal battles like love, heartbreak and longing.  

Half-way through the 10-episode series, one realizes that writer Charudutt Acharya and director Mahesh Manjrekar have been more astute with exploring the personal battles rather than the actual war.  

The story is narrated in present time by a grandmother as the grandkids huddle around. She talks about the 1962 war where her husband Major Suraj Singh and his troop bravely fought Chinese soldiers despite being severely outnumbered.  

We meet Suraj Singh (Abhay Deol) and his team. We delve into each one’s story and get a glimpse into their personal world— their unfulfilled romances, their friendships and equations with family.  

Eventually, the scene shifts to the battlefield as Suraj prepares to take on the Chinese soldiers. Even though the aim is to instill a sense of pride for the outstanding achievement of the Indian soldiers, there is sadly a lack of depth in depicting the situation.  

For example, when a character asks why the skirmish when Hindi-Chini are bhai- bhai (referring to the Indian and Chinese are brothers slogan), Suraj replies rather cheekily that it will soon be converted into ‘bye-bye’.  

The series often missteps in showing Indian soldiers handling the Chinese intrusions and misdemeanors on a daily basis. For example, it shows an experienced officer like Suraj disguising himself as a villager without bothering to change the shoes, leading to his cover blown by the Chinese.  

There are stereotypes sprinkled all across like the child-woman who goes around the village with kids stealing mangoes and being admonished with ‘kab jaayega tera bachpanna?’ (when will your childishness go?).  

Interestingly in this war drama, some of the more interestingly fleshed out characters are played by women. Radha’s (Hemal Ingle, superb) single-minded devotion for her beau is a mash of rebellion and foolishness. She sidesteps other potential paramours, classist parents, and friendship trials to focus on attaining her love, even being unapologetic about her pre-marital pregnancy. Then there is the character of Rimpa (Rochelle Rao), a local who often puts her life at risk to assist Indian soldiers in their missions.  

The portrayal of the ‘enemy’ here is largely black-and-white. The comic-book villainy is on display especially in scenes like a Chinese soldier shooting down a bird and ripping it apart with his bare hands. This leads to a horrified Rimpa exclaiming— “gande ho tum log” (you people are ghastly). Then there are other instances where Chinese soldiers are shown abandoning their injured teammates, while Indian soldiers maintain solidarity putting their own lives at risk to protect each other.  

The war scenes often seem you’re watching a video game due to the inept visual effects and what looks like 2D mountains in the background. At other times, the series takes the other extreme and ends up glamourizing the soldiers sacrificing their lives. For instance, a soldier getting married and being called on duty on that very day. Troops marching forward to the tune of Vande Mataram. Soldiers killed to the tune of a woman singing an emotional song. It’s either this or that— never real.  

Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s discussions with military heads have zero tension or drama and are portrayed rather flatly with little nuance.  

The series has a smorgasbord of good actors that seem out of sorts. Abhay Deol has to say lines like, “Aaj dinner bahut top-class tha.” The audience can’t help being aware of how grossly underutilized he is in this series. Mahie Gill’s crackerjack screen presence is dulled here, and though she manages to shine in a couple of scenes, her dialogue mainly consists of asking Suraj to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner.  

A tale that could have been immersing and thrilling is crushed under tacky visual effects and an over-glorified, simpistic portrayal. A story such as this deserved much more nuance and heart.

(1962: The War In The Hills is streaming on Disney+Hotstar VIP)

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