STORY: Three officers of the Indian National Army are on trial for treason. An ailing lawyer must help them face the consequence of their courage.
REVIEW: We are living in the time of terrific national pride. If your patriotism doesn’t reflect in your attitude, your cuisine, your movie-theatre etiquette and your twitter feed, its existence is called into question. And while we jump to conclusions faster than we can say ‘India’, we often forget the people who fought actual blood-and-bullet wars (as opposed to shouting matches on news shows) to get us where we are today.
Raag Desh takes us back to these heroes. It tells the story of Maj. Gen. Shahnawaaz Khan (Kunal Kapoor), Lt. Col. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Amit Sadh) and Col. Prem Sahgal (Mohit Marwah), three officers of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, who put everything on the line and gathered troops to re-enter India to take down the British after the Second World War. Khan, Dhillon and Sahgal are captured and tried in court for conspiring against the British Indian Army, while their lawyer, Bhulabhai Desai (Kenneth Desai), tries to twist facts to free them of the charges.
Writer-Director Tigmanshu Dhulia has chosen to narrate an incredibly interesting anecdote from our freedom struggle. The hard work of his four-member research team and two-member writing team is evident. Whether the story needed to be told in a non-linear fashion is debatable, but it mostly gets the point across. In a lot of ways, it educates you about the socio-political climate of the time. However, its educational quality is its bane.
Even though Dhulia painstakingly recreates the pre-independence era with researched costumes and sets, and employs multiple languages (the Japanese speak Japanese, the British speak English; no shady dubbing here) to maintain authenticity, the movie proceeds with the mechanical tone of a disinterested college professor. It gives you numbers and dates and facts and suddenly introduces relatives of the protagonists who have stories of their own. It’s death by information.
Had the movie been freed of its half-hearted side-tracks it would have made for great infotainment. It is only half of that word now.