Monday, September 14, 2009

Shaurya

Ripped off by most Indian critics on the premise that this 2008 film was an unacknowledged direct "copy" of the film/play A Few Good Men, forgetting royalties due could still not be the crime of a work that masterfully weaves the Kashmir situation, albeit taking a very simplistic and ambiguous view, into the fabric of a court-martial drama that finally traces itself back to one top officer's psychology. As regarding the play itself, A Few Good Men was to me itself a pilferage of The Caine Mutiny, of course not a "direct" copy at all. So my conscience was not troubled at all while watching Shaurya.

What is valor? This is the basic disturbing question that the film asks throughout and tries to define through the actions, the mindsets, the words of its different protagonists. In the course of this, it tackles the Indian army's excesses in Kashmir, the resultant communal polarization that it could and does engender, and the nation India itself whose very fabric is its tolerance, not the laïcité of the West, but a true embracing of every viewpoint, every ritual, every word of seeming or actual wisdom that ever dropped in its fold and still does. The film is marred by a needless love story impeding the progress of tension throughout the narration, and yet there remain stunning performances from Deepak Dobriyal as Javed Khan, a man who can be easily framed because of his faith, Kay Kay Menon as Brigadier Rudra Pratap Singh, the man who would take a personal revenge upon a whole community, and once again, though in a very limited role, Seema Biswas, as Javed's mother. Rahul Bose as Javed's defense lawyer, who comes of age this late because of Javed's court-martial trial, and Amrita Rao in a very brief role of the young, beautiful widow who shows them all what the true meaning of valor is, also come up with superb performances; and thus, except for the romantic interest in the film, Minissha Lamba playing a journalist, there is no complaint on that score. The reason though that in spite of such acting skills and a fine climax the film turns out to be mediocre is that the film needlessly meanders till the time that climax occurs: it would have been a really brillliant 1-hour film; yeah, a risk, but what does a film-maker want in the end? A good film or a sufficiently long film?

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