Film: Raag Desh
Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Mohit Marwah, Kanwaljeet
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
The Red Fort trails that held 3 Indian National Army officers to court martial, forms the basis for this excuse of a film. The trials( court martial proceedings) were in fact meant to be the raison d’être of the film but Tigmanshu Dhulia contrives to weave in the history of the INA a.k.a Azad Hind Fauj and in the process loses sight of the main plot.
The film begins with a historic skirmish showing how 40,000 soldiers led by Mohan Singh and later Subhash Chandra Bose (Kenny Basumatary) of the 25 lakh Indians who fought for the British Army in World War II, who surrendered to Japan after its win over Britain in South East Asia, ended up becoming collaborators in their war against the allied forces.
Now part of the INA, Shah Nawaz Khan (Kunal Kapoor), Prem Sehgal (Mohit Marwah) and Gurbaksh Dhillon (Amit Sadh), find themselves at the crossroads after being court-martialled for waging war against the Queen and murdering fellow Indians. That the trials took place at the Red Fort in October 1945 becomes a moot point here. Dhulia takes us away from the tension and one-upmanship of the court proceedings fought by Bhulabhai Desai (Kenneth Desai) as the Defence lawyer and Advocate General of India, Sir Naushirwan P Engineer (Anil Rastogi) as the Prosecutor, to give us brief nuggets of history regarding the INA. Understandably, this filler for a plot-less, under-researched film doesn’t allow for any affect or attachment.
The eventual pronouncement of guilt and the public Outcry that forced the then Army Chief Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck to commute the sentences appear as footnotes to a struggle that is referenced in piece-meal at best. The course of the trials famously reignited the Indian freedom struggle leading to complete independence in 1947. But Dhulia’s effort is constricted at best and simply unable to eke out fervour or intensity out of this drama.
If at all a patriotic fervour is generated, then it’s because of the relentless repetition of Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa in pumped up volume, sung with motivational fervor, playing schematically in the background. Nehru (Rajesh Khera), Judge Sehgal (Kanwaljeet Singh), Captain Lakshmi Swaminathan (Mrudula Murali) who eventually married Prem Sehgal and Gandhi have all too-brief inconsequential presence in the film that is littered with great names but just doesn’t have the conviction to do justice to their presence in it. Also, the crisscrossing timelines and shoddy editing don’t allow for narrative coherence. This is an opportunity lost so-to-speak!