A war film is not exactly common in Indian cinema, and one that focusses completely on a chapter from a conflict without digressing into romance, dreams and dances needs to be lauded, and Sankalp Reddy’s Telugu work, The Ghazi Attack has the ability to engross.
What is more, Reddy has managed to get a really impressive star cast of Om Puri, Nasser (though in minuscule role), Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon and others.
It was after a very long time that I saw Menon as Navy Captain Ranvijay Singh exhibit his sheer brilliance which I saw in Anurag Kashyap’s first movie, Black Friday, where the actor played the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Maria, investigating the 1993 Bombay blasts. As Ranvijay Singh, he is the haughty but highly intelligent captain in charge of an Indian submarine, S 21.
The Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam sends Lieutenant-Commander Arjun Varma (Daggubati) along with Singh in order to keep him in check as the ship sails on a secret mission just before the 1971 India-Pakistan war breaks out.
Quite interestingly, Daggubati too is wonderfully restrained – a complete changeover from the kind of parts he has been playing so far. In addition, we also have an excellent performance from Atul Kulkarni, who as the executive officer, Devraj, on board the submarine has the trying task of keeping peace between a brash and ready-to-torpedo-the Pakistani submarine (Ghazi) Singh and, Varma, the man told by his bosses to ensure that the Indian captain does not provoke a war.
Shot splendidly inside what looks like a real submarine, Ghazi has been mounted with a fair degree of authenticity and scripted quite impressively. Admittedly, the film may not be comparable to some of Hollywood’s unforgettable war classics, like Von Ryan’s Express and Battle of the Bulge – just to name two. But given the kind of handicaps Indian cinema faces in terms of budget and special effects, Ghazi is remarkable in the way it presents some of the most tense moments when the Indian submarine hits a landmine planted by the Pakistani vessel.
Severely handicapped by loss of lives and injuries to the men aboard, S 21 finds itself in a desperate corner – when it can only move up or down and not forward or backward. And with Ghazi set to destroy S 21, by shooting several torpedoes, the Indian submarine very cleverly dodges the missiles to a point when the captain of the Pakistani vessel shouts in anger: Is that Indian captain a lift-man going up and down?
Great photography by Mathi, and lovely work by the special effects team propel Ghazi into death defying waters in a drama where the fear is clearly etched on the face of each Indian sailor.
Really, an engaging piece of cinema. But what was Taapsee Pannu – as an East Pakistani refugee rescued by Varma from the high seas — doing in the movie? Totally wasted after her performance in Pink. The rather poor dubbing is another minus point. But on the whole Ghazi is gripping.