As ‘Street Dancer 3D’ clashed with ‘Panga’, as well as the highly successful ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’ at the box office, Kabir Khan released his much awaited magnum opus, ‘The Forgotten Army’ on Amazon Prime. Based on his own documentary of the same name, the web series has actors like Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari Wagh, MK Raina, Rohit Chaudhary, Karanvir Malhotra etc. in principal roles.
The web series aimed to depict the sequence of events, leading from Britain’s unconditional surrender to the Japanese in Singapore, to the formation of the iconic Indian National Army. Does ‘The Forgotten Army’ succeed in its ambitions? Let’s find out –
Circa 1996: An old Surinder Sodhi (M K Raina) visits Singapore in order to meet his extended family. His grand nephew Amar (Karanvir Malhotra), a photojournalist by profession, wants to visit Burma, which is under the oppressive rule of military junta. Though his family is against the same, old Sodhi comes along, as he revisits his own memories of the stint with the Indian National Army, and the war they fought to liberate India from British rule, and this is what forms the crux of the web series, ‘The Forgotten Army’.
The Bad –
Did the story deserved to be told? Yes. Did The Forgotten Army deserve a better platform? Definitely. Is this a great tribute to the legacy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose? NO. For someone, to whom this project was his dream coming true, churning out such a disappointment is the last thing one would expect from Kabir Khan. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose deserved a far better tribute than this. While Netaji was reduced to a blink and miss appearance, the other important figures of Indian National Army found no mention at all. This is seriously unfair.
Far from being a riveting, action packed web series, ‘The Forgotten Army’ is actually the opposite. Unnecessary dramatization, a half baked plot, apart from propaganda that is stuffed at unnecessary places make this web series a literal snooze fest. While there are scenes which have been brilliantly executed, shoddy VFX destroys the plot setting, as well as the mood of the scene, making you completely disinterested.
According to media reports, the film was made in the style of the much popular miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’. If the reports are true, then ‘The Forgotten Army’ is a massive failure to be honest. If one looks at the VFX, one would find it hard to believe that this web series was made for a budget of Rs. 150 crores. The special effects at various places look forced, and at most places, the visuals would make the people behind the VFX of ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ pat their backs for being less cringe worthy. Arijit Singh’s ‘Azaadi ke Liye’ is a good, hummable number, but the way it has been used in the series, it would make even die hard fans hate Arijit Singh for a while.
The Ugly –
For any movie project or web series, the casting is one of the make or break factors. Like Prabhas made Baahubali immortal, and like Sharad Kelkar gave a memorable portrayal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’, good casting works wonders for many movies. However, in ‘The Forgotten Army’, the biggest drawback of the film is the terrible casting. When an actress like Shruti Seth Aslam is chosen for the iconic role of Captain Lakshmi Sahgal , you know how much dedicated the casting director was towards the project.
As Surinder Sodhi, Sunny Kaushal has attempted his best, but he looks inconsistent at many places. One would inadvertently compare his performance with that of Vicky Kaushal, who had infused confidence amongst his troops on screen as the Para SF Officer Major Vihan in ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’. As for Shah Rukh Khan as the narrator, the less we say, the better.
Another thing that ‘The Forgotten Army’ did not deserve was unnecessary propaganda that feels incongruent with the times and the crux of the project in hand. While we’re not unaware of Kabir Khan’s ideological approach, especially in context to the CAA controversy, he deliberately tried to link an important plot point with the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh, JNU, Jamia Milia etc. The masses are now being fed up of propaganda being shoved down our throats, which has been reflected in the performance of ‘Sacred Games Season 2′ as well. However, it seems that Kabir Khan has taken no lessons from that.
Is there anything Good? –
However, ‘The Forgotten Army’ is not entirely a cringe fest. There are moments where some people have excelled with the task they were provided. As action director, Sham Kaushal deserved better. He tried to infuse life into the web series with his riveting action sequences. As an example, one can’t help but be engrossed into the war sequence where the Japanese invade the Allies in Singapore; riding on bicycles (Yes, you read that right). Aseem Mishra has also done justice with the cinematography.
While the casting of the movie has some issues of its own, actors like Rohit Chaudhary, MK Raina, and Sharvari Wagh left a significant impact with their short but effective roles. Had the series focused less on Sharvari and Sunny’s romantic angles, the role of Sharvari would’ve been more effective.
To sum it up, ‘The Forgotten Army’ suffers from the same problem that made ‘Panipat’ a disaster. This series is not only a grave injustice to the legacy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, but also to most of those people, who gave it their all to make India free from British rule. To reduce Netaji to a mere footnote is nothing less than criminal, and no apology from Kabir Khan would be enough to compensate for the same. TFI would rate it 2.5 from 5 stars.