Filmfare recommends: Top Bollywood war films from the ’60s to ’80s

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It’s said war is a necessary evil. India has been known for its non-aggression tactics. While we haven’t ever started a war with any nation, it’s also true that we haven’t turned the other cheek when our neighbours turned on us. The Indian soldier is known to be amongst the bravest in the world and is known to give it all for his motherland. Our filmmakers have brought out that quality in countless films. Presenting the best war films from the ’60s to ’80s — the period which saw three wars being fought. We salute the spirit of the noble Indian soldier with this presentation.

Haqeeqat (1964)

Director: Chetan Anand
Cast: Dharmendra, Balraj Sahni, Priya Rajvansh, Sanjay Khan, Vijay Anand, Jayant, Sudhir

The movie highlights the bravery of the Indian soldiers during the 1962 conflict. The army was ill-equipped for high-altitude warfare (at 5000 meters above the sea level). Despite heavy odds, and the turbulent weather, they fought bravely till their dying breath. The film brings to light their sacrifice in a very realistic manner. The film has several subplots concerning the lives of the soldiers. Chief among them are the romance between local Ladhakhi girl Angmo (Priya Rajvansh) and Captain Bahadur Singh (Dharmendra). Angmo is raped and then killed because she wanted to help the Indian forces. Bahadur Singh too lays down his life so that his comrades can escape. The nation was under a wave of Indo-Chinese unity, what with the slogan of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai doing the rounds. In such a scenario, the Indian soldiers were ordered not to fire first and that kind of proved to be their undoing as they got completely surrounded by the Chinese troops, who also held the higher ground. They try to retreat but even the weather is against them and hence they decide to go down fighting. They fight till their last breath in adverse conditions, their fingers frozen on their triggers. The film was partially shot on location in Ladakh. The Indian army assisted director Chetan Anand in the making of the film. It won the National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film in 1965.

Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973)

Bollywood, war films

Director: Chetan Anand
Cast: Raaj Kumar, Amjad Khan, Amrish Puri, Parikshat Sahni

The film was based on Operation Cactus Lilly which took place in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. It showcased the valour of our air force pilots who were instrumental in maintaining aerial superiority over Pakistan Air Force. The film made use of actual planes like Canberras, MiG-21s, Su-7s and Hunters to lend authenticity to the scenes of aerial battles. Almost a decade after he made his first war film Haqeeqat (1964) on the 1962 India-China conflict, director Chetan Anand followed up with Hindustan Ki Kasam made on the Indo-Pak war. Hindustan Ki Kasam revolves around a family that always had a person in the forces. Wing commander Ranveer Batra (Vijay Anand) and squadron leader Rajesh Batra (Parikshit Sahni) both consider their country as their mother. Rajesh succumbs to injuries after his aircraft gets shot at by Pakistan Air Force pilot Usmaan, who later turns out to be a cousin separated during Partition. The Indian Air Force’s top priority is to destroy the PAF radar blocking Indian communication. Mohini (Priya Rajvansh), is planted by the Indian military intelligence at a TV station in Pakistan as a PAF pilot’s fiancée. Just like Alia Bhatt much later in Raazi, Mohini successfully completes her task as a spy. The climax has squadron leader Rajiv Shukla (Raaj Kumar) rescuing her from Pakistan after a superb dogfight in the skies. The film has acquired somewhat of a cult status today but strangely didn’t do well at the box office back then.

Aakraman (1975)

Bollywood, war films

Director: J. Om Prakash
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha, Rakesh Roshan, Farida Jalal, Sujit Kumar, Asrani, Keshto Mukherjee, Mumtaz Shanti and Rajesh Khanna

We don’t know what made J Om Prakash, known for his romantic films, turn his hand at a war film. Suffice to say that the veteran filmmaker stayed true to his romantic roots and wove a plot that revolved around a love triangle and had plenty of melodrama. Lieutenant Sunil Mehra (Raakesh Roshan) falls in love with Sheetal (Rekha) only to discover that she is betrothed to Major Ajay Verma (Sanjeev Kumar). Sunil immediately becomes an alcoholic, something which his superior officer and friend Ajay fails to understand the reason for till very late in the day. They are in the army, there’s a war on so Sunil initially wants to bump off Ajay as it would mean he would have a clear claim on Sheetal. He doesn’t follow through despite getting many opportunities, however, and later gets bitten by the patriotic bug, which makes him fight the enemy in the company of his rival. The film has an extended cameo by Rajesh Khanna, playing a handicapped ex-soldier. The film focussed on the fact that soldiers are humans too and have feelings just like everyone else. But they learn to subdue those feelings for the common good. The combat scenes were surprisingly good as well.

Lalkar (1972)

Bollywood, war films

Director: Ramanand Sagar
Cast: Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar, Mala Sinha, Nazir Hussain

The movie came out one year after the Indo-Pak war but was strangely set in the World War II era. Wing Commander Rajan (Rajendra Kumar) and Major Ram (Dharmendra) are sons of an army veteran Colonel Kapoor. Though they don’t like the British, they love their motherland enough to serve under them during World War II and defend their country against the Japanese. Rajan and doctor Usha (Mala Sinha) daughter of another war veteran Colonel Choudhary (Nazir Hussain) have feelings for each other and because it’s a Hindi film set in the ’70sBut unknown Ram also falls for Usha. Rajan is assigned on a suicide mission of sorts to destroy a secret Japanese airstrip. His plane is brought down and he’s captured by the Japanese. His younger brother Ram now takes the road route to destroy the same airstrip. Both missions were compromised as there is a mole in the high command. The brothers do get to meet again and how they help each other turn the tables on the enemy and ensnare the Japanese spy in the process forms the crux of this rather dramatic war film.

Vijeta (1982)

Bollywood, war films

Director: Govind Nihalani
Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Amrish Puri, Kunal Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Om Puri

Angad (Kunal Kapoor), who is brought up as a Sikh on his mother’s insistence, is a confused teenager trying to figure himself out. His Maharashtrian mother Neelima (Rekha) and Punjabi father Nihal (Shashi Kapoor) don’t get along too well and he finds himself caught in the middle between them. He doesn’t know what to do with his life. After spending time with his maternal uncle Arvind (Om Puri), who is in the army, he decides to try his luck in the armed forces. He does get selected in the Air Force but there is a wealth of difference between being selected and actually being a pilot. He has to fight his inner demons to successfully fly a plane and almost gets killed on his first solo flight. Group Captain Varghese (Amrish Puri), is a strict disciplinarian and expects all his cadets to follow his high example. Angad falls in love with Varghese’s daughter Anna (Supriya Pathak), and being with her brings much-needed stability in his life. He begins to do well in training and finally overcomes his inhibitions when it matters the most — war between India and Pakistan breaks out in 1971 and Angad does his country proud through his manoeuvres in aerial combat. The film was shot in real armed forced facilities and boasted of some deft aerial cinematography. The training scenes looked life-like and so did the flight combat scenes near the end. It showed what all a young man has to go through before being deemed worthy of being an officer in his country’s armed forces. It’s easily one of the best war films to have come out of India.

Dahleez (1986)

Bollywood, war films

Director: Ravi Chopra
Cast: Meenakshi Sheshadri, Jackie Shroff, Raj Babbar, Smita Patil

The film was a remake of hit Hollywood film Hanover Street (1979), starring Harrison Ford. Colonel Rahul Saxena (Raj Babbar) gets married to Naini (Meenakshi Sheshadri). Naini used to love Chandrashekhar (Jackie Shroff),, a fighter pilot but they fell apart because of a misunderstanding. Rahul is called to the front, leaving Naini behind. She gets bored at first but then starts having an affair with Chandrashekhar. Upon coming back, Rahul senses a change in her and is heartbroken to find the reason. He volunteers for a dangerous mission to go behind enemy lines and as fate would have it, Chandrashekhar is Rahul’s pilot. Their plane gets shot at and everyone in his team is killed. Rahul himself is injured. At this juncture, Chandrashekar decides to help him salvage the mission and even helps him escape back to India at great risk to his own personal safety. He leaves a wounded Rahul at the army hospital, where Naini reconciles with his wife. Upon seeing this Chandrashekhar quietly walks off their lives. The film’s heavy-handed melodrama was juxtaposed by some nice action scenes. We certainly would have done with more of them. The bromance between macho actors Raj Babbar and Jackie Shroff worked in the film’s favour.

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