The Ghazi Attack: A Melodramatic Misfire

In 1971, the Pakistan Government cracked down on the citizens residing in its Eastern wing, today known as Bangladesh, after East Pakistan-based Awami League gained a near absolute majority in the National Assembly. Fearing Bengali domination, President Gen. Yahya Khan unleashed holy hell on the East Pakistanis. People from the East flowed into India, causing a major refugee crisis. PM Indira Gandhi’s appeals for action against Pakistan fell on deaf ears.

According to official records, in mid-November, PNS Ghazi, Pakistan’s flagship submarine, set off from Karachi. Its destination was the Bay of Bengal. Its primary target was INS Vikrant, India’s first aircraft carrier. The secondary objective was to lay mines around the Vizag harbour, an objective that had to be accomplished regardless of whether the Vikrant was destroyed. On Dec 3rd 1971, INS Rajput, a destroyer under the command of Capt. Inder Singh, set sail from Vizag. Navigational aids were off. By now, the Ghazi crew knew that they had missed the Vikrant by a mile. It was decided to push towards the secondary objective nevertheless, as had been instructed. Around midnight, a lookout spotted something on the surface of the water. Capt. Inder ordered a change of course and the firing of two depth charges. Minutes later, explosions were heard. The Rajput surveyed the area for a while but their search bore no fruit. The destroyer set off towards the East Pakistan coast. In the early hours of Dec 4th, the Ghazi sank with all 92 crew members on board. The Pakistan Navy would later claim that the Ghazi sank after making contact with one of its own mines. The fact of how the Ghazi sank remains a mystery. Some say it hit its own mines, others say there was an internal explosion, while another group says that the Rajput destroyed it. PNS Ghazi remains at the sea floor off the Vizag coast, possibly a war grave to the 92 Pakistanis who lost their lives aboard.

This film fictionalises the Ghazi’s story. Enter S21, INS Karanj, one of the Indian Navy’s Kalvari-class submarines. Under the Patton-quoting, trigger-happy Capt. Rann Vijay Singh, it is tasked to carry out a surveillance operation by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command. The objective is to detect enemy presence in the Bay of Bengal. Lt. Cdr. Arjun Varma, whose character is eerily similar to those obnoxious Class Monitors we’ve all been victims of, is sent along to keep an eye on his CO, who is known to disobey orders. Joining them is XO Lt. Cdr. Devaraj, the Second-in-Command. Capt. Rann Vijay and Lt. Cdr. Varma clash immediately in a sub-plot that looks straight out of the Ford-Neeson clash from Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19 Widowmaker. Another major incident in the film seems lifted…sorry, inspired from Wolfgang Petersen’s World War 2 U-Boat drama Das Boot.

The story is all over the place. It’s been seasoned way too much, especially at a time when one is told Indian audiences are ready for serious cinema. Sub-plots of Devaraj’s son being born, Rann Vijay’s son having been martyred, East Pakistani refugees being rescued and the like make the story bloated and somewhat silly. Also, how are Indian audiences so easily convinced that all Pakistanis are eggheads? Or is that a myth filmmakers believe us to be stupid enough to swallow without a thought? The music score by K is a major disappointment. When will the incessant strumming of a guitar in the background with a Pakistani on screen stop? The visual effects are haphazard. Great in certain bits but overall quite shabby. The production designer Shivam Rao and DoP Madhie should be proud of themselves for some spectacular work. The costume designer, as in all films about the Services, focused more on uniform decoration than realism. Hence, you see a Vice Admiral who is yet to complete twenty years of service (A Vice Admiral is equivalent to a Lieutenant General. They are the second-highest ranks of their respective Services, unless one were to count the five-star ranks). Also, officers wear ribbons of the Siachen Glacier Medal (Awarded for Operation Meghdoot, which commenced in 1984) , Operation Parakram Medal (Instituted in 2001), Samanya Seva Medal (1975), Sainya Seva Medal (Awarded for service in areas like Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim etc), High Altitude Service Medal (worn upside down), 50th Independence Anniversary Medal (India completed fifty years of independence in 1997), Operation Vijay Medal (1999)…..I could go on. Also, how is an Admiral an FOC-in-C, an appointment held by a Vice Admiral…unless you’re talking about an Indian film. Also, in case you were wondering, officers of the Pakistan Navy do in fact wear the same ribbons as the Indian Armed Forces. Yes, indeedio!

Taapsee Pannu had no role in the movie. Her presence did nothing for the story. Absolutely nothing. Rana Daggubati was solid wood. He’s been taking lessons from Katrina Kaif. Rahul Singh and Maj. Bikramjeet were cast in stereotypical roles which did not give them much leeway. Nassar, Om Puri and Milind Gunaji were ineffective. Kay Kay Menon probably realised that this is probably the only time he’ll get to ham like this in his career. So he hammed to his heart’s content. This was certainly not the Kay Kay I am used to watching on screen. He did well in two scenes though. Atul Kulkarni was the anchor of this sinking ship and he did a great job.

So that is my take on Sankalp Reddy’s The Ghazi Attack, a movie I want you to watch so that you can feel as stupid as I do. Also, watch Rangoon and this film back to back. It’ll enhance your intellect a lot.

The Ghazi Attack: 1/5

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Also, personnel of the Indian Armed Forces are not jingoistic loonies (speaking from seventeen years worth of observation).

Featured Image: INS Karanj at sea, sourced from Wikipedia

Poster Source: Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Varun Bhakay

for

VARUN BHAKAY’S WRITER’S BLOCK

13th March, 2017

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