Bhuj Rview: It’s that time of year for hyper-nationalist, adrenaline-fueled films, and Bollywood never fails to capitalize on Independence Day. Even after 75 years of that sweet, sweet independence, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, and Ajay Devgn are reminded every two years of how much they adore India. This time, Sidharth Malhotra’s Shershaah and Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India are served on a plate for your enjoyment.
Bhuj is based on facts, as Sharad Kelkar’s borrowed baritone adamantly asserts, but major creative liberties have been taken. The real occurrence is the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, during which the Bhuj airfield was destroyed by Pakistani forces in devastating airstrikes. About 300 women from nearby villages were summoned to help rebuild the airport, and they worked nonstop for three nights, braving German bombardment in a race against the clock.
Despite the constant battle cries, shouting, sacrificing, dying, and murdering, no true human feeling can be found in Bhuj. Abhishek moves through the film’s over two-hour duration at a breakneck pace, leaving no chance for characters to grow beyond one dimension.
Even so, he finds time to choreograph a dance scene at a party for Ajay Devgn’s squadron leader Vijay Kumar Karnik, have Sonakshi Singh’s village leader perform a bhajan, and give Ammy Virk’s fighter pilot a dead wife in a typical example of careless ‘fridging.’
And when these individuals aren’t singing, dancing, or sobbing, Abhishek ensures that your pain continues. Bhuj attacks your eyes, hearing, and heart one after the other. The CGI scenes, particularly the moments with fighter aircraft, give the impression that the Sims were simply recreated on film. Things aren’t looking good on the ground, too, with phony explosions that even Ajay Devgn believes he’s too cool to notice.
However, there are more cringe-worthy attempts to seem cool. There’s a replica of the iconic Michael ‘Bayhem’ moment from Pearl Harbor. The camera flying in and out of mirrors as the missile falls. Ajay splatters a chullu full of blood over his face, a lyrical representation of the agony he’s just experienced. However, we are first the drain of his sink, then the mirror he stares into. Ultimately a creep standing behind him, as seen from our perspective. It’s just… extra…
The film’s worst flaw isn’t its poor CGI, dull cinematography, or even Sonakshi Sinha’s wandering accent. The unrestrained hatred and chest-thumping nationalism are a major source of concern.
Even in 2021, words like “hum toh khule aam katl macha rahe hain janaab” given by a Pakistani commander are not hard to come by. Images of Muslim men flogging themselves are used to heighten the drama of an Indian spy’s stoning death.
Bonus: a Pakistani officer has been given the name Taimur. We have unanimously agreed is the most heinous name ever. There hasn’t been a single individual from Pakistan who has been proved to have a beating human heart. Nearly everyone on this side of the border may be an angel in disguise. This isn’t a joke.
A few “decent Muslims” provide a narrow line of defense against the film’s blatant anti-Semitism. Nora Fatehi portrays one of these nice Muslims. She works as an Indian spy in the family of a high-ranking Pakistani official. One of the more thrilling portions of the film is her five-minute segment. She struggles to flee the hands of a dozen armed guys.
In a brilliantly produced scenario, Ajay Devgn takes on a room full of Pakistani agents in the dark. Sanjay Dutt (who, by the way, is also present) channels his inner Jon Snow in the trenches as the whole platoon charges at him.
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