By Mrityunjay Bose (UNI)
The movies released in recent times, J P Dutta’s ‘LOC – Kargil’, Farhan Aktar’s ‘Lakshya’, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Main Hoon Na’ and Anil Sharma’s earlier ‘The Hero – Love Story of a Spy’ concentrated on the achievements of the brave men who battled Pak intruders on the mountain heights in Kargil and neighbouring areas.
‘Agnipankh’ was perhaps the only exception in recent times which focused on the youngest service of the defence forces — the Indian Air Force (IAF) and its pilots. The film had Jimmy Shergill, Sameer Dharmadhikari and Rahul Dev playing the lead roles. Though the film directed by Sanjeev Puri was an attempt at making viewers aware of the life and challenges of those guarding the skies, Air Force sources feel it fell short in faithfully depicting the life of the IAF officers.
As far as television serials are concerned, in the late 80s and 90s, Doordarshan had aired ‘Samundar’ which focused on the life of the Navymen and ”Sea Hawks” on the Coast Guard. ‘Saara Akash’ on Star TV deals with the life of IAF officers, while ‘Fauji’, a serial on Armymen and commandos which proved popular also became the launch pad of Shah Rukh Khan.
‘Param Vir Chakra’, a teleserial by the late Chetan Anand, which was based on the life of men who were accorded the land’s highest gallantry award, was aired on Sundays on Doordarshan and enjoyed considerable popularity. The serial had some well-shot scenes depicting the exploits of Flt Lt Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, including the episode on the dog-fight over Srinagar in which he single-handedly took on six F-86 Sabres in his Gnat. Though the focus of Bollywood was the Army, the Air Force has been featured in a few movies but only as a backdrop to emotional dramas.
Hyderabad-based aviation expert and writer Jagan Pilarisetti said Raj Kapoor’s ‘Sangam’ was ”quite professional” in its portrayal of the ‘Men in Blue’, including the battle scenes.
The Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila starrer ‘Aradhana’ was another movie in which the Air Force formed the backdrop to the trials and travails of the female protagonist.
A notable film on this theme was ‘Vijeta’ in 1985, which told the story of the defenders of the skies, Mr Pilarisetti added. Produced by Shashi Kapoor, it portrayed the life of a fighter pilot, Angad Singh, played by Kunal Kapoor and also starred Shashi Kapoor himself with Rekha. He said the film, primarily shot in AFA Dundigal, had fantastic footage of HJT-16 Kiran trainers and MiG-21s.
J P Dutta’s ‘Border’ based on the famous Longewala battle during the 1971 Indo-Pak war also has quite a bit on the IAF. While Sunny Deol, Akshaye Khanna, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Puneet Issar play the role of Armymen, and Jackie Shroff dons the IAF officers’ uniform. The film was based on the battle of Longewala showing a border outpost holding out against an attack by a Pakistani armoured regiment before a flight of Hunters from Jaisalmer airfield attack and destroy the Pakistani tanks.
Chetan Anand’s 1973 hit movie ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’ was shot immediately after the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The movie had an all-star cast which included Raj Kumar (Mig-21 pilot), Priya Rajvanshi, Vijay Anand (Gnat Pilot), Balraj Sahni (Air Chief), Amrish Puri and Amjad Khan (Pak Pilot and radar operator).
It had plenty of dog-fights and bombings featuring Sukhoi-7s, MiG-21’s, Sabres and Gnats. The MiG-21 stunts in the movie were done by Flt Lt Samar Shah and Flt Lt Manbir Singh. His earlier film ‘Haqeeqat’ with its ‘Kar chale Hum Fida Jaano tan saathiyo’ featuring a multi starcast including Balraj Sahni, Dharmendra, Vijay Anand, Jayant, and Priya Rajvansh on the exploits of the Army still remains a classic.
‘Sangam’, directed and acted by Raj Kapoor as a pilot, was shot in 1964 and featured IAF aircraft like Canberras and Dakotas. The setting was the 1962 Indo-China conflict. It also featured Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayanthimala.
Another film with an IAF angle was ‘Silsila’. Produced and directed by Yash Chopra, the film was shot in 1981 and featured IAF aircraft like Gnats and Mig-21s. The setting is the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The aircraft shots were filmed at the Srinagar and Poona airbases with a star cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha, Sanjeev Kumar and Shashi Kapoor (Mig-21 pilot).
‘Prem Pujari’, filmed in Spain, Britain, and France, was Dev Anand’s formal directorial debut in 1970. Ram (Dev Anand) plays the role of a soldier morally opposed to war and escapes from the Army after being jailed for insubordination. On the run, he encounters Rita (Waheeda Rehman) whose single-seater plane has crashed and who embroils him in a spy ring he is determined to expose.
Other films include Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit starrer ‘Pukar’, 1975 Sanjeev Kumar starrer ‘Akraman’, ‘Kohram’ starring Amitabh and Nana Patekar and Sunny Deol’s ‘Ma Tujhe Salaam’. Chief of Army Staff N C Vij had recently said that though these movies were welcome and necessary to inspire the next generation, it was important to make them keeping in mind the sensibilities and traditions of the Armed Forces.
Army experts believe there cannot be too many ventures on Defence Forces on the silver screen as not only are they expensive ventures, they also require the filmmakers to adhere to the defence rules and regulations. In any case, Bollywood cannot take too liberal a perspective on their traditions and practices. In recent times, the increased interest in the entertainment industry about the Army has crossed over to a new territory with the media initiating real-life interactions between the two groups.