Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, Soni Razdan and others
Where: Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Rating: 3.5 stars
Throughout the 1980s and the 90s, war films were regular offerings from filmmaker J P Dutta, but in recent years, he had lost his sheen, as a storyteller. With his last release Paltan in 2018, Bollywood directors seemingly came across as seeking ideas desperately on how to make soul-stirring war films. Lakshya (2004), URI: The Surgical Strike (2019) and Shershaah (2021) are a few exceptions in that regard when it comes to offering a potent mix of valour and patriotism.
Director Raja Krishnan Menon, best known for the Akshay Kumar-starrer Airlift (2016), brings an untold story of the liberation of Bangladesh (formerly known as East Pakistan), led by Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta and his inter-personal relationships with his family and his fellow Indian Army soldiers.
Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta aka Balli (Ishaan Khatter), a carefree, indisciplined, yet lovable soldier possesses ideologies that differ from his mother Maati (Soni Razdan), Radha (Mrunal Thakur) and elder brother Major Ram Mehta (Priyanshu Painyuli). Balram realises his inner calling when he gets his hands on Pippa, an Indian military tank.
Inspired from Mehta’s autobiographical account The Burning Chaffees, Raja infuses his storytelling with well-etched performances. With relatively relevant and popular young faces fronting his directorial, the director is able to deliver a war drama that is realistic, while also generously focusing upon complex relationships that arise due to conflict across borders.
Raja sensibly explains the undercurrent of conflict between West and East Pakistan back in the day, when India was led by PM Indira Gandhi. It’s interesting to note how he showcases our Indian military tanks and their contribution towards Indian political affairs and wartime.
Generally, war films are meant for a big screen experience but Pippa being a straight-to-digital release keeps the momentum of a 70-mm war movie. Balram’s writing and Raja’s visions bring this narrative to its fruition. Pippa doesn’t bore or derail from the director’s core aim. The film is truly palatable to those, who are interested in current affairs and historical events associated with them. The original background score by maverick A R Rahman is noteworthy.
Coming to the performances, Ishaan is potent and powerful. His physique and dialogue delivery uplifts his performance. Mrunal, however is monotonous with lesser-screen time but she is so pleasing as Radha, that the shortcomings aren’t bothersome. Priyanshu of Mirzapur series fame, a hidden gem, steals the show. He is probably one of the most talented method actors we have at the moment. Inaamulhaq, Raja’s blue-eyed boy surprises as Shibli. His scenes with Priyanshu are a highlight. Kamal Sadanah, who made his acting comeback with Kajol in Salaam Venky (2022) stuns in a role of an Indian army official.
Despite its delays, Pippa is definitely a well-intended war film. Sad that the film lost out on a theatrical release but a good film will nevertheless find its audience, eventually.