By: By Taran Adarsh
Critic's Rating: 18/5
Friday 26 December 2003
J P Dutta
Also see: Sify's `LOC Special
First things first!
Does J.P. Dutta's war epic L.O.C. meet the gargantuan expectations of the viewer?
Can a war epic, which has a running time of four hours, keep the viewer glued to the screen for such a long duration?
And most importantly, does the film succeed in presenting to the common man the Indian Army's valiant win on the highest battlefield of the world ? Kargil?
Beat the drums, blow the bugle and roll the red carpet for J.P. Dutta and his heroic team of L.O.C. The year 2003 may not have started on a promising note, but it does end on a magnificent note with L.O.C.
So, what's the 'story' like? L.O.C. has no 'story' as such ? in fact, it encompasses the facts and presents it in four concise hours for the viewer to comprehend the heroic win of our Jawans.
Director J.P. Dutta has tackled various genres in the past, in the form of Ghulami, Yateem, Hathyaar, Batwara, Khatriya, Border and Refugee. But he seems most comfortable attempting a war film. L.O.C. more than proves it!
In a nutshell, the war epic sweeps you completely off your feet!
L.O.C. is based on a number of true stories from the Kargil war. What intrigues you is the way the Jawans fought the war, so that the nation could eat, live and sleep in peace. When they [Jawans] became heroes, it wasn't because they wanted to be one, it was because they were thinking of the motherland, India. The Jawans who freed India from the enemies were a bunch of ordinary mortals, who have been immortalised by J.P. Dutta in this flick.
For those of us who never went to war and learned of its horrors only through the reports, L.O.C. reveals the brutal reality, hurling the viewer into the midst of an inferno of twisted metal, shrieking shells and human agony. It is probably the most vivid and visceral war film ever witnessed on the Indian screen.
One has to consider L.O.C. from at least two points of view, that of history and specifically of the history of the Kargil war and from the audience's point of view. L.O.C. is both a remarkable technical achievement and a horrifying reminder of the consequences of going to war.
The viewer is not soothed or manipulated by song-dance items here, but instead we hear the sounds of bullets hitting metal and bone, skin being ripped apart and burned. There are only life-sized, vulnerable men, being forced to be either victims or heroes ? or both.
L.O.C. works primarily because it shows the world the harsh reality without pulling any punches. The story about our soldiers is told with competency. The story manages to move us through all sorts of different landscapes and scenarios, giving us an unforgettable glimpse of a world unknown to most of us.
Undeniably a brilliant director, amongst the best cinematic storytellers of our times, J.P.'s latest work is embellished with razor-edged dialogues [O.P. Dutta], amazing cinematography [Karim Khatri], well executed war sequences [Bhiku Verma] and effective background score [Aadesh Shrivastava]. In short, L.O.C. is a demonstration of his cinematographic skills.
Directorially, J.P. knows how to convey his feelings about men in combat, and he has the tools, the money and the collaborators to make it possible. His cinematographer brings a newsreel feel to a lot of the footage. And that's a big compliment!
Anu Malik's music gels well with the mood of the film, but it lacks that one patriotic song that remains with you even after years [Kar Chale Hum Fida Jaan-o-tan Saathiyon and Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon sound fresh even today!].
Any hiccups? Yes!
The film can do without the romantic track of some principal characters towards the second half. The track comes as a major hindrance and the song that follows [Pyaar Bhara Geet Koi] takes the graph downwards.
Actually, this track gives an impression that since the director has roped in so many actors, he wanted to do justice to each of them.
Now to the performances!
With a massive cast like the one assembled in this film, it is rather difficult to pinpoint every actor and talk about their on-screen work. But, must add, after years of watching screen heroes go through an extended adolescence, it's a pleasure to encounter the same names act as grown-up men this time around.
The performances that stand out in this war epic are [in this order] ? Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai.
Ajay gets into the skin of the role and delivers a performance that's sure to win accolades. Saif is getting better with every film. He manages to stand out despite the heavy line-up. Abhishek Bachchan is extremely likeable. This is amongst his superior performances. Manoj Bajpai is controlled and the camaraderie he shares with Ashutosh Rana is fantastic.
Sanjay Dutt's role doesn't have much meat, while Suniel Shetty is relegated to the backseat. Akshaye Khanna is alright.
The leading ladies don't get much scope. Yet, Kareena Kapoor stands out of the crowd, followed by Esha Deol.
On the whole, L.O.C. is a powerful experience. It has power-packed direction and power-packed sequences that remain etched in your memory even after the show has concluded. More than anything else, L.O.C. is a triumph for the master film-maker who has the guts and the vision to make a film of this magnitude!
Rating:- * * * *