LOC - Lots Of CribbingI pride myself on the fact that I usually don't go to theatres, spend money and find the movie is not to my liking. I may be an enemy of the cinema theatre folks because of this, but I prefer to try all my experiments on TV telecasts (paying the price of intrusive ad spaces/chasms), especially given that most movies end up on the small screen withing 10 months. I agree that most movies are best watched on the large screen, but that is a debate for another day. So when I ended up watching L.O.C. - Kargil yesterday despite knowing fully well I wasn't going to like it (some of my other cribfests have usually been courtesy screenings that are gratis), it was a novel experience for me.
The blame could be put on us goofing on the time for Sea Biscuit and concluding in those weak moments that seize mankind that we'd watch anything possible ("we" being a group of my classmates meeting after a while) - this inspite of knowing that LOC was getting knocked all around by critics (who usually like to give the benefit of doubt to their friends in Bollywood) and was a whopping 4 hours. The problem was compounded by bad seats. Still, there was a lot of potential cribbing in prospect which would see us through.
Though not an avant garde corny movie like Jaani Dushman (which I fear George, Harish me and some others are making a cult film of), it has its bright moments for the conscientious cribber. It is of course extremely sad that J.P.Dutta wasted all the potential the subject of this magnitude had and worse that the audience was reduced to laughing at the portrayal of the army heroes (no disrespect meant for the actual Kargil war heroes, only at their screen counterparts). There was so much awful about the film - amateurish photography, camerawork and lighting, repetitive dialogues and flawed screenwriting, and most annoying of all, a refusal to believe that Indian film audiences have no powers of imagination. If someone mentions a father, the director thinks he has to cut to a shot of the father and it cannot be implied. Battle scenes were uni-dimensional and followed a standard template: the men would scale the slopes, be fired upon in a sequence consisting of:
- Pak. sentry announces "dushman uupar chad raha hai".
- Pak. leader decides it is time for action and orders sentry no. 2 to commence firing.
- Pak. sentry no. 2 speaks into telephone and says "... firing karo".
- Firing begins.
The Indian response usually is:
- Scale slopes by firing.
- Soldier with mortar is first to go down, but no one else attempts to pick it up.
- Officer (read: well-known face, usually out-of-work actor) is hit.
- Brother officers gather around and ask: "Are you OK?".
- Injured officer: "I think I am hit".
- Brother officer yelling: "Ek stretcher laao, jaldi".
- I.O.: "No! Mujhe stretcher pe le jaane ke liye 8 aadmiyo.n ki zaruurat hogi. Isse hamara attack weak ho jaayega!"
- The B.Os pay no attention anyway, and the I.O. is stretchered off.
- One of the big names notices the mortar lying unattended and starts to fire it off.
Another feature was that though the attacks were carried out in night, they were always bathed in white light and the troops (who just exchanged more of the above mentioned gaaliya.n with the enemy) shout their secret plans to each other. The Pakistanis have apparently gone back to listening to Metallica at full vol., what else would explain their lack of reaction? But then the enemy is shown to be quite dumb, mostly looking away from the point of attack. The affected use of expletives comes off very badly, not least because they are half-expurgated. So you see "Behn..." and lips moving - the user does the requisite tab completion.
The main problem with the film is what the director thinks is its strength - the excessive scenes involving the families of the army men. Not since Hum Aapke Hain Kaun have we seen so many relatives in one film. Assorted wives, fiancees, girlfriends, female neighbours, children, maa-bapus and townspeople blot the storyline. It gets extremely difficult to remember who is paired up with whom and I must commend the director on recalling the right pairs- quite a memory feat. I saw someone on TV saying that how wonderfully the maker had managed to show the emotions of the relatives - I cannot believe he was talking about the same film. If all that they show is a true depiction, then the female populations of Army cantonments are well stocked with made up and are impeccably dressed, even in times of need (most of our Miss Indias come out of Army installations, so this may be true) and the families have no identities of their own apart from those defined from their husbands/sons.
We may be a spoilt population, having watched Western movies on war - but no one dares tell me that this was even anywhere near other excellent depictions such as Haqeeqat, Vijeta et al. Some idiots have conjectured this is India's Saving Private Ryan - please. Kannathil Mutthamittal still, in my opinion, has the most authentic war scenes I've witnessed from an Indian film. And it is way below Border, which had its flaws but still had a mix of characters and conflicts.
I shouldn't be wasting time on this dud, but it is also an education to see bad films. I wish the money spent had been used in a better way. I'm sure my friends in the defence forces would be the most vehement critics of the depictions. I also wish J.P.Dutta understood that the pronunciation of "Jalaja" is not "Jalaajaa". I wish night wouldn't follow day in a splitsecond. I wish Ajay Devgan hadn't moved his eyeball after he was "dead". I wish J.P.D had ended the films by mentioning the names of those who won medals for their unparalleled services, atleast the Param Vir Chakra recipients. I wish he hadn't passed off this 120 minute film as a 4 hour mega-bore. I hope Lakshya will be a better army film.