Raag Desh Review
Not too many people know the story of the soldiers who fought alongside Subhash Chandra Bose who we know as Netaji, and have seen pictures of in our History textbooks. So this historical film works in bringing back something vague you have learnt in the textbooks and gives it form.
Indian schoolkids have marched to the song, 'Kadam kadam badhaye ja' but we know nothing more. It was the anthem of the Indian National Army or the Azaad Hind Fauj created by Netaji. They fought against the British, with heavy losses in the Eastern part of India. Three officers: Colonel Prem Sehgal, Colonel Gurbax Singh Dhillon, and Major Shahnawaz Khan were tried in a military court and accused of betraying the King (they were after all Indian officers of the British army) and aiding and abetting the murder of Indian soldiers.
The story is set during the second World War where the British army sent its Indian soldiers to defend its eastern borders from an ever encroaching Japan. The British lost to Japan and surrendered the Indian soldiers to the Japanese. The clever Japanese accepted the surrender and then asked the Indian soldiers to go back and free India from the clutches of the British. The soldiers know that fighting the British would mean fighting their own... But the dream of free India pushes them on.
The actors, Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah as the three officers on trial do a great job, and Mrudula Murali as Captain Laxmi of the INA has a small role but deserves a film of her own.
The war scenes are very poorly shot, especially with Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk still playing in the theatres, but they serve to show in what difficult situations the INA fought. It is the trial that is close to brilliant, because the casting of the lawyer is. Actor Kenny Desai makes for an uncanny Bhulabhai Desai who fought the case as a defense counsel. The writing is brilliant and even though the scenes between families and the three officers is too much like a TV soap, one supposes that these are stories that need to be told. It is a no frills courtroom drama that keeps your attention. If only Indian films could do away with patriotic songs...
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