‘The Safety, Honor and Welfare of Your Country comes first…Your Own Ease and Comfort will come last’
This one line, inspired from the glorious epitaph near Chetwode Hall near Indian Military Academy, and quoted by Amit Sadh, who essays the role of famous INA commandant of Nehru Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon in the classic, now known as Raag Desh this one quote sums up our duties as a citizen of India.
If there is one thing, that Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director will later be remembered for; it is his earnest effort to remove the dust off the ignored chapters of Indian history, which he did successfully with his new movie, Raag Desh.
Based on the famous 1945-1946 Indian National Army Trials at Red Fort, Raag Desh is a moving tale of how the parties to the first of the innumerable trials against the surviving soldiers and officers of the Indian National Army at the famous Red Fort, where the very first trial against the following three officers changed the entire course of the British Empire in India, and became an important catalyst in accelerating the independence of India from the British Empire:-
- Major General Shah Nawaz Khan [Captain, 1/14 Punjab Regiment]
- Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal [Captain, 2/10 Baloch Regiment]
- Lietuenant Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal [Lieutenant, 1/14 Punjab Regiment]
Raag Desh is a detailed breakdown of how the three officers on trial united an entire nation in their support.
After the skirmish at Popa Hill in Burma in 1945, a section of INA troops are compelled to surrender, which includes the likes of Shah Nawaz, Gurbaksh and Prem Sahgal. They’re transported to Red Fort, where they’re subject to mocking and ridicules from their own compatriots who’re serving the British Indian Army.
On the other hand, Acharu Ram Sahgal, a Lahore High Court judge, played by Kanwaljit Singh, is making all ends meet to make sure that his own son Prem, and the two others, which also includes bringing forth Bhulabhai Desai, played by Kenneth Desai, an expert lawyer of his own class disgruntled by the apathy shown to him by the Congress Party. Putting aside the differences, Bhulabhai joins the INA Defence Committee, and what follows is not just a court martial against three rebellious officers of the British Indian Army, but a courtroom war between two nations : one the oppressive Great Britain, and the other was our own oppressed Bharat / India.
From the penchant for minute details, to including every ethnicity and their languages related to the prevalent times, Tigmanshu Dhulia has simply nailed it in Raag Desh. While we always lament of Indian movies not staying true to history, often grossly distorting it, this is one film that actually is almost 100% accurate [with the sole exception of P K Sahgal’s rank in the Indian National Army], which is a win in itself for the director, who has previously delivered us classics like ‘Haasil’, ‘Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ to name a few. Besides, who can forget his epic immortalization of the dreaded villain, Ramadhir Singh, in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’?
What’s Good in Raag Desh:-
The attention paid to almost every fact and detail associated with the era. From the courtroom interiors, to the uniforms of the soldiers, be it the British Indian Army, or the Japanese Imperial Army, or even the Indian National Army, nothing was spared by Tigmanshu Dhulia. It was Surreal, As I was watched Raag Desh, It felt as if I was watching History Unfold right in front of my eyes. This minute detailing, with a special mention of the notorious INA massacres in Bengal, made this movie look like a rerun of the actual history. Trust Tigmanshu Dhulia to recreate such wonder within a shoestring budget of Rs. 10 crores. Imagine, if there was any Bollywood star associated with this movie, the movie budget would just have doubled only by the actor’s fees itself!
Apart from the minute details, another interesting aspect of this movie is an attention to the emotional turmoils that the soldiers of INA after being captured faced. From being jeered and humiliated by their own compatriots in the British Indian Army, just for choosing to listen to their own heart and choosing to fight for India’s freedom, to being brutally massacred by the British troops in cold blood .
The last thing I heard from an eminent reviewer on The Indian Express, was that the INA fell prey to ‘SUPERIOR BRITISH MILITARY SKILLS!’. If massacring 3000 INA soldiers in cold blood is what she interprets as ‘SUPERIOR BRITISH MILITARY SKILLS’, then I’m not surprised why this breed of so called intellectual film reviewers are jeered and mocked at by the current breed of cinemagoers.
What’s Fantastic in Raag Desh:-
The jewels of this film were the actors, who nailed their roles to utmost perfection. Kunal Kapoor, who essayed the role of Major General Shah Nawaz Khan , has not only lived up to the role, but also reminded us of his supreme acting skills, which had made him a heartthrob post ‘Rang De Basanti’ . Mohit Marwah, who had a forgettable debut in ‘Fugly’, surprises one and all with his perfect rendition of Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal. His charming personality, coupled by his romantic tryst with Lakshmi Swaminathan, played effectively by Malayali actress Mridula Murali, is certainly a treat to watch.
Amit Sadh, known well for his role as Omi in ‘Kai Po Che!’, brings out the underrated, but outstanding actor in himself again, while essaying the role of the jocular but hot headed nationalist Lt. Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. His one liner jibes with Shah Nawaz [Kunal] are bound to tickle your funny bones.
The supporting cast was a class apart in itself. Kenneth Desai, normally seen in junior roles, essayed the role of his lifetime as the expert, but old lawyer Bhulabhai Desai, who is on the verge of retirement, and yet, defends the three officers effectively. Kanwaljit Singh as Acharu Ram Sahgal portrays the angst of a concerned father fighting for his own son, while Kenny Basumatary, who played the role of Subhas Chandra Bose, rejuvenates our respect for the famed leader ‘Netaji’ all the more with his supreme acting. Vijay Verma as the inquisitive journalist Jamal Kidwai is another guy to look out for.
This is not all. The music in this movie in itself induces nostalgia. The current rendition of ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaaye Jaa’ is bound to induce goose bumps in your veins. No doubt this movie includes a heavy dose of patriotism, but this patriotism is bound to invoke some moist eyes as well with the emotional sequences, and some giggles with some light hearted banter.
What could’ve Been Better in Raag Desh:-
The only thing that prevented me from giving full marks to Raag Desh, was the lesser attention paid to make the narrative crispier, adding to some unnecessary scenes which would’ve worked explosively well for Raag Desh, like it did in the case of ‘The Ghazi Attack’. Otherwise, this is not really any flaw that can be detected in this almost near perfect masterpiece, that makes Tigmanshu Dhulia return with a bang, 4 years after his close to disastrous ‘Bullet Raja’ went live on the silver screens.
My personal rating of Raag Desh would be 9/10, and to be precise, some movies should not be judged. They should be watched for the message they want to convey, for the cloak of ignorance about our heroes they wish to remove from our eyes, and ‘Raag Desh’ is certainly one of them. Do not miss this movie at all, it’s a must watch for one and all. If you can revel in awe at Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’, you can surely spare some time for its’ desi equivalent, ‘Raag Desh’ .
Leave a Reply