The year 2007 saw a lot of movies that were simply criminally underrated. Movies that deserved a whole lot more acclaim, accolades and popularity then they deserved…..add another one to the list; 1971; a hard-hitting and emotionally rending film which deserves to be seen by everyone.
On face value 1971 looks like a war film along the lines of say J.P Dutta’s BORDER or LINE OF CONTROL, however once you watch the movie you realise it’s an engaging and exciting tale of survival. In-fact the story of the movie is closer to Milan Luthria’s DEEWAAR-LETS BRING OUR HEROES HOME and it tackles the same theme. The key difference here is debutant Amrit Sagar and writer Moti Sagar get everything right!
A clan of six Indian prisoners of war -- Major Suraj Singh [Manoj Bajpai], Captain Jacob [Ravi Kissen], Subedar Ahmed [Chitaranjan Giri], Captain Kabir [Kumud Mishra], Flight Lt. Ram [Manav Kaul] and Flight Lt. Gurtu [Deepak Dobriyal] -- decide to make the most daring escape from a Pakistani prison camp to the Indian border. What ensues is a gut-wrenching and heart-pounding chase, across the unpredictable terrain, where these men brave inhuman weather conditions and the constant threat of the Pakistani officials on the hunt for the P.O.W.s.
With nothing to rely on except each other and the love of their beloved homeland the men will stop at no cost to achieve their goal, or die in the process.
The story by Moti Sagar is based on plain hard facts, and the writer has ensured that he serves full and complete justice to the subject at hand. There are two things that strike you about the story, the first is that it would’ve been very easy to turn a subject like this in to a documentary, and Sagar clearly avoids this as 1971 is quiet frankly the most entertaining “escape” film I’ve seen from India in a VERY long time. Secondly, a theme like this is easy to turn in to a jingoistic finger pointing exercise, however Sagar avoids this path completely too. Yes, the movie does call a spade a spade, but never does it get offensive (much like Kashyap’s BLACK FRIDAY).
The screenplay by Piyush Mishra is tremendous. Right from the start to the very end the movie is an enaging, egde-of-your-seat thrill-ride which is relentless. The movie gets more and more gripping as it progresses. The first half set in the prison camp does a remarkable job at showing the viewer life in one of these camps, and the thorough research that has gone in to the subject matter is clearly visible in each and every frame. However from the point the escape takes place, the graph only rises further and further. The sequences that follow range from exciting, gripping to horrific and truly disturbing. Though Bollywood has explored films in this genre with films like LAKSHYA, LOC, BORDER, AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SAATHIYON, and DEEWAAR-LBOHH; 1971 covers new facets of the genre which has never been touched before. 1971 is ultimately a tale of survival against all odds, and a undying determination to go back home.
Director Amrit Sagar deserves a full round of applause. This is a stunning debut from a rookie, and Sagar is no doubt one very talented director who has inherited all right family genes(he does belong to the Ramanand Sagar family). Not once can viewers tell this is the work of a first-timer as each and every part of the movie is so seamless in it’s pacing, and so superlative in it’s narrative. The unflinching honesty, the brutal violence and the complexity of the topic is just not something you expect from a debutant (though Kashyap did the same in BLACK FRIDAY, mind you he went to “school” with SATYA). There isn’t a single scene that is unwarranted or undeeded and the emotional impact of the movie is simply staggering.
The performances in the movie are of a high order, and despite a cast of mostly “up and comers” or newcomers, the performances leave a lasting impression.
Manoj Bajpai roars yet again! I had started giving up hope on Bajpai being a part of a quality film worthy of his talent again, however he springs a neat surprise with a knock-out performance. This isn’t on the same par as his earlier works like SATYA, SHOOL, KAUN, PINJAR or AKS, however this is a strong performance which leaves a hammering impact!
Ravi Kissen (Bhojpuri Superstar) surprises with a soft performance. In many scenes he instantly reminded me of Mohanlal be it the delivery or the get-up(compliment enough).
Chittaranjan Giri is equally strong. Kumud Mishra and Manav Kaul are both efficient and excel in the sceneds they have. Deepak Dobriyal is spectacular, and this is the third performance in a row where Dobriyal has totally impressed me (first being OMKARA and second being SHAURYA).
The most vital aspect of a “escape” movie has to be the chemistry between it’s stars(again something DEEWAAR-LBOHH lacked sorely), and the cast here are natural to the core.
Technically again the movie is a slick product, and again this is a department the movie has been over-looked. Chirantan Das’s camerawork is stunning, and worthy of accolades. Shyam Salgaonkar’s editing is crisp never once losing focus on the subject at hand. Shyam Kaushals action sequences are slick.
All up 1971 is a MUST-SEE! Do not miss this movie as it’s quiet easily one of the finest 2007 had to offer….
Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0