Bhuj The Pride Of India Movie Review: Sharad Kelkar wins hearts in new Ajay Devgn film

Bhuj The Pride Of India Movie Review: Even with Ajay Devgn looking all suave in that Air Force uniform, for us, the film belongs to Sharad Kelkar.

Movie Name: Bhuj: The Pride of India
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha
Director: Abhishek Dudhaiya

300 against a battalion. The story of how the airstrip at Bhuj, Gujarat was rebuilt in just about 72 hours in December 1971, after it was bombed down by Pakistani jets, is one of those war stories that fills your heart up with pride. Ajay Devgn as Indian Air Force Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik, in Disney+Hotstar’s Bhuj: The Pride Of India, brings you that true story against the backdrop of the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Arousing as it is, it is not without exaggeration.

Bhuj: The Pride Of India opens to the very fight that destroyed the airstrip. Unprepared and helpless soldiers at the Bhuj airbase ran helter-skelter as Pakistani jets dropped bomb after bomb. The devastation both on land and in their eyes was enough to let your heart sink for a moment. How would Karnik salvage the situation? And if he fails, one of India’s most important airbases stands to be captured by the enemy. At this point, there is no othering, Pakistan and India are truly at war in East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh. And Bhuj is key for both nations as an attack in the west will only act as a blow to India’s focus on the eastern frontiers.
As IAF Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik, Ajay Devgn is well within his comfort zone. His quiet but resolute stares quickly establish him as a calculating, dependable Indian soldier who will save the day. That bits and pieces of news articles from the time still remain in the public psyche certainly helped. But Karnik is not the only hero in the story, and that’s where Bhuj, the film, and Bhuj the true events diverge, at least in director Abhishek Dudhaiya’s vision. Military officer RK Nair, brought to life by Sharad Kelkar, Ranchhod Pagi, played by Sanjay Dutt, Flight Lieutenant Vikram Singh, essayed by a superb Ammy Virk, and the women of Madhapar, a village in Bhuj, headed by Sonakshi Sinha’s Sunderben Jetha, demand as much a share of the pie.

Even as Bhuj, the film, meticulously narrates their plight, shows them fighting, bleeding, dying, the focus and the camera remains firmly on Ajay. Though Sharad and Sanjay have been given some dramatic dialogues, the film clearly establishes a hierarchy – Bhuj: The Pride of India is headlined by Ajay Devgn.

The women in the film have it worse still. Nora Fatehi as Heena Rehman, an Indian spy in Pakistan, had more screen-time ratio in the trailer than in the film. Sonakshi, on the other hand, again with some arousing dialogues, is reduced to both literal and figurative drum-beating. In terms of performances, it is hard to comment considering both Nora and Sonakshi had so little scope.

At 150-odd minutes, which might seem a tab bit long for OTT viewing, even with the unnecessary drumming and dialogues, Bhuj goes on smoothly. The picturisation is perfect, the post-effects ensure the war scenes were seen and felt, although the editing in the scene transition aspect could have been tighter. As for the factual errors, you can watch this to find out. There’s but one scene which ticks the product-placement box, we shall let you see it yourself when you do.

Final thoughts? Even with Ajay Devgn walking in slow motion, looking all suave in that IAF uniform, for us, the film belongs to Sharad Kelkar. And that’s a shame; this is his second Disney+Hotstar film where despite being the clear hero, he remains in the shadow of the bigger star. Which was the first film, you ask? Laxxmi.

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