India’s first underwater film drowns under its weight

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The Ghazi Attack movie review: Rana Daggubati and Kay Kay Menon film could have been an engrossing crisis-at-sea drama but the film is so busy slaying Pakistanis that it loses sight of its core strengths.

The Ghazi Attack movie cast: Rana Daggubati, Taapsee Pannu, Kay Kay Menon, Atul Kulkarni, Rahul Singh, Om Puri
The Ghazi Attack movie Director: Sankalp Reddy
The Ghazi Attack movie rating: 1.5 stars

“All people associated with this film are law-abiding citizens.” Yes, films have finally come to that. The Ghazi Attack starts with this disclaimer, before going on to declare that its intention is not to outrage or offend anybody, that it doesn’t in any manner support some of the expressions used by its characters, and that it makes no claim to historical accuracy.

Pakistan must be relieved.

Among other things, the film’s lead protagonists make fun of, and then decide to ignore, higher-ups over decisions such as attacking enemy ships that could start a war. “Really, you are that kind of a soldier?” scorns Capt Rann Vijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon, hamming to his heart’s content), advocating all but surgical strikes.

And that may only be because, as the promotions point out, this is India’s first under-water war film. Even when the film, at its best, has two submarines doing the death dance — bobbing up and down sea depths — lines on sand, that one can presumably stealthily sprint across, are harder to draw.

At the centre of the story lies the mysterious sinking of Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi during the 1971 war. The film projects INS Rajput vs PNS Ghazi, a submarine battle that has many versions, as the Indo-Pak war that you don’t know about. But there are stories within stories, and so there is the aggressive Capt Singh, the pragmatic officer Arjun (an impressive Rana Daggubati), Singh’s loyal second-in-command Devaraj (Atul Kulkarni) and two measly Bangladeshi refugees (including Taapsee Pannu) plucked off the sea by the brave Arjun himself.

While Singh and Arjun are playing out their power games, with Singh repeatedly mocking Arjun and his “political masters (including Om Puri, who plays an officer heading the Eastern Naval Command headquarters),” PNS Ghazi is quietly making its way to Bay of Bengal. The Navy gets a clue about Pakistan’s designs, and sends in S-21 (INS Rajput itself is never mentioned) submarine to just keep a watch. Which Singh, always toting War As I Knew It by American General George S Patton, decides brave soldiers can’t do.

Clearly, some amount of effort has gone into understanding the makings of a submarine, running of a ship, and even firing of torpedoes and laying of landmines at sea. The film doesn’t cut corners on under-water shots of ships damaged, leaking, hissing and sputtering, even though the first shot of Singh and Arjun first venturing into the unknown is Titanically fake.

You know how a film that strategically deploys – literally – the National Anthem, Saare Jahan Se Achcha and even the Tricolour will end. But for a while, The Ghazi Attack shows us glimpses of a crisis-at-sea film it could have been, even with unshaved, unfit Navy men who sweat at the possibility of going food-less for a day.

But there are Pakistanis to slay, and too many torpedoes to not fire them all. In all, eight-odd fired, two-odd hit. What happened to the other six? The heart quails.

 

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