During the lengthy India-Pakistan war sequence in the climax portion of Major Ravi’s latest film, 1971 Beyond Borders, there is a bizarre moment. Amidst all the fighting, guns, and wailing, actor Mohanlal, who plays Major Sahadevan, the head of the Indian army battalion, starts a conversation with his Pakistani counterpart, Raja (Arunoday Singh). “I have heard a lot of things about you,” shouts Raja from the trench he is hiding in.
Sahadevan, from another trench a few feet away, replies, “I have heard a lot of things about you, too. That you are as ferocious as a tiger etc [sic]. But before the next sunrise, I will kill you and your people.”
Raja responds, “In your dreams!”
Would army chiefs of two countries engage in trash talk on a real war ground? This is something Major Ravi should know, for he has first-hand experience of wars and guns. This scene, which is shot like a stage play, is a hint to what is in store. Ravi’s 1971 Beyond Borders is a clumsily-executed, blatantly-jingoist film.
The film is Ravi’s sixth military movie, and the fourth one in his ‘Major Mahadevan series’ starring Mohanlal. Over the years, a lot of things have changed. Mahadevan has been promoted as a Colonel. He is now working with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. His big, round belly is bigger than ever. After years of annihilating Pakistani army, and screaming lessons of patriotism into the ears of selfish, cowardly senior officers and the hapless audience, Mahadevan is now fighting terrorism across the world.
Minutes into the film, you see him valiantly saving a group of unguarded Pakistani soldiers from the middle of a shootout. Ravi has shot the scene at his corniest best, using close-up, slow-mo shots of Indian and Pakistani men fighting hand in hand. When the shootout is over, Pakistani men, on the verge of tears, pay their gratitude to Mahadevan. “You saved us, even though we are Pakistanis,” the head of the group tells Mahadevan. And the man replies, “That’s what Indians do. We never consider anyone an enemy…”
The film, based on the Indo-Pak war of 1971, has Mohanlal playing a dual role – as Mahadevan and as Major Sahadevan, father of Mahadevan. The movie pretends to discuss the catastrophic consequences of war by romanticizing war. There is a scene where a senior intelligence officer arrives at the Indian camp to discuss with Sahadevan the possibilities of surrendering to Pakistan since it has Britain, USA and China aiding it. However, the word ‘surrender’ causes Sahadevan, the dare-devil patriot, see red. “No matter who comes for Pakistan’s aid, we will win,” he shouts at the officer, and proudly walks his team of soldiers to the war ground, as the intelligence officer gawks at him in awe. The film looks at war merely as a physical exercise where men sacrifice themselves like gladiators at the altar of nationalism.
Like every other Major Ravi film, 1971 has a bunch of thoroughly-dull characters who mouth template lines such as, “I am always ready to die for my country”. The army camp consists of over-weight Malayalee soldiers, and a couple of Tamilians. When not on war ground, they are seen reminiscing about their lovely life in Kerala, or serving water to injured Pakistani soldiers in the Indian war prisoners’ camp. These scenes are juxtaposed with that of the Pakistani war prisoners’ camp, to show how generous and ethical Indians are, as against the barbarous Pakistanis.
One of the few sensible sequences in the film belongs to Sudheer Karamana who plays Captain Adhiselvam. Upon the order of Sahadevan, Adhiselvam goes to a Kerala village to inform an ailing father of the death of his son on the war field. The father is on the death bed and Adhiselvam, caught between his duty and humaneness, stands by his bed, unable to mention the news of the son’s death. This sequence, which had several possibilities, like The Bull Beneath The Earth, is, unfortunately, reduced to a non-imaginative tear-jerker.
1971 is the kind of movie where characters, dressed in army uniforms, scream things like, “enemy is coming this way, turn left and hit them by their shoulder”. Wouldn’t you rather watch a Dangal or a Chak De India where these types of strategies actually belong? 1971 is a one-sided account of a slice of history, told with the help of a toxic cocktail of jingoism, nationalism and a lack of understanding of cinema.
The 1971 Beyond Borders review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.