On the occasion of 15th August, the Rajput battalion of Indian Army posted in Nathu La Pass hoists the tricolor and Lt. Col. Rai Singh Yadav (Arjun Rampal) emphasizes on how the Indian culture is superior to every other culture because of how it explores god and how our ‘Dharam’ finds god in all other living animals as well, something that no other ‘dharam’ does. If that’s not disenchanting enough, then the army men (both Indian and Chinese) in JP Dutta’s Paltan choose to throw stones at each other owing to border disputes.
The 1967 Indo-China war is vividly remembered as it brought a sweet taste of victory, especially after how India devastatingly lost the previous war to China in 1962. The retaliation had cost the Indian army some of its bravest souls. Paltan rightly says, Fauji ko kabhi ladai nahi chahiye hota hai. Kyun ki usmein sab se zyada luksan usiko hota hai. Why then, in the film, the tune of revenge overtakes every other real purpose of the war?
Major Bishen Singh (Sonu Sood), Captain Prithvi Singh Dagar (Gurmeet Choudhary), Major Harbhjan Singh (Harshvardhan Rane), 2 lt Attar Singh (Luv Sinha) are all comrades on the same mission. China is threatening to take over Sikkim and these men have sworn to lay down their lives to defend their country. The plot holds a great historic value and is indeed one of India’s greatest tactical wins in the history of conflicts with other nations.
Too many cooks spoil the broth. Too much of enforced nationalism spoils its true essence. Hence, the aggressive and angry men mouth, 4 ft ka Chini, uska 4 ft ka gadda. Or, Kya Chu Chao Kar Rahe Ho? Add to that the number of times they verbally and loudly recall Desh Ki Mitti. They step over the border, get into conflicts and scream, 1962 mein tumlogon ne hi humare Rajput bhaiyon ko mare the na? And when it’s time for the final mission, Sonu Sood, with a straight face exclaims, Bhagwan ne isiliye humare paltan ko yahanj bheje hai.
All of it evokes no goose bumps. In fact, it is dragged and monotonous. Sure, we know the war’s purpose and can only imagine the emotional turmoil it creates, leave aside the materialistic destruction. But Paltan isn’t a film that swears by subtlety of emotions. It throws loud pieces of patriotism that fall flat on their faces.
Apart from Rampal who mostly delivers a controlled performance, others underperform. They try too hard but are hardly convincing. Gurmeet Choudhary topping that list.
Paltan offers an ineffectively written screenplay. Over the top individual performances and poor casting. The actors cast to play Chinese characters have no impact on the danger that they are supposed to pose. The climax of the film, though, does stay with you. The loss feels personal with burnt, bleeding bodies that won’t wake up again. But we are really clutching at straws here. It’s sad that this is the man who gave us a classic like Border. You won’t lose anything if you give this a miss!