Bhuj movie review: Ajay Devgn's chest-thumping, gunpowder-snorting film fights Radhe for worst of the year crown
‘Tis the season for hyper-nationalist, adrenaline-soaked movies again, and trust Bollywood to never let an Independence Day go uncashed. Even after 75 years of that sweet, sweet freedom, there is no respite from getting biannually reminded of just how much Akshay Kumar, John Abraham and Ajay Devgn love India. Served on a platter for your consumption this time are Sidharth Malhotra's Shershaah and Ajay Devgn's Bhuj: The Pride of India.
Bhuj, as it so vehemently establishes in Sharad Kelkar's borrowed baritone, is inspired by true events, though significant ‘creative liberties’ have been taken. The true event mentioned is the war of 1971 between India and Pakistan, when the Bhuj airbase was completely destroyed in deadly airstrikes by Pakistani forces. About 300 women from neighbouring villages were called in to repair the airstrip, and they worked tirelessly for three nights, braving enemy bombing in a race against time.
Watch the Bhuj trailer:
Simply reading the Wikipedia entry about the episode could give you goosebumps, but the most that director Abhishek Dudhaiya could manage to get out of me was an indifferent shrug. Despite the incessant war cries, screaming, sacrificing, dying and killing, one cannot find a single drop of genuine human emotion in Bhuj. Abhishek rushes through the film's almost two-hour runtime with lightning speed, leaving no room for characters to attain any dimension higher than one. Even then, he finds room to make Ajay Devgn's squadron leader Vijay Kumar Karnik pull off a choreographed dance sequence at a party, make Sonakshi Singh's village leader sing a bhajan, and give Ammy Virk's fighter pilot a dead wife in a classic case of casual 'fridging'.
And when these people are not singing, dancing or crying, Abhishek makes sure your suffering does not take a break. Bhuj launches one assault after another on your eyes, ears and heart. The CGI scenes, specially the sequences with fighter jets, make it look like someone simply rendered Sims on film. On the ground, things aren't great either, with fake explosions that even Ajay Devgn thinks he is too cool to look back at.
More cringeworthy attempts are made at appearing cool, though. There is a recreation of that classic Michael 'Bayhem' scene from Pearl Harbor, with the camera falling with the missile and swooping in an out of mirrors. Ajay literally splashes a ‘chullu’ full of blood on his face, a poetic expression of trauma he's just been through. But from our POV, we are first the drain of his sink, then the mirror he looks into and finally a creep standing behind him. It's just too…extra…
However, the shoddy CGI, the bland cinematography, and even Sonakshi Sinha's vagabond of an accent is not Bhuj's biggest problem. It's the chest-thumping nationalism and unbridled hate that is a big cause for concern.
Even in 2021, lines like the one delivered by a Pakistani general -- “hum toh khule aam katl macha rahe hain janaab” -- are not hard to come by. Images of Muslim men flogging themselves are used to make an Indian spy's execution by stoning even more dramatic. Bonus: a Pakistani officer has even been named Taimur, which we all have decided is the most evil name ever. Not a single person from Pakistan has been shown to have a beating human heart while almost everyone from this side of the border might as well be an angel in disguise. It's no joke. Sonakshi Sinha's desi village belle slays leopards by night and also builds runways by night. A few ‘good Muslims’ make a very thin wall of defence for the film's naked hate.
One of these good Muslims is played by Nora Fatehi. She is an Indian spy in a high-ranking Pakistani official's household. Her five minute sequence, as she tries to escape the clutches of a dozen armed men, is one of the more exciting parts of the movie. Ajay Devgn takes on a room full of Pakistani spies in the dark, in a stylishly-filmed sequence. And even Sanjay Dutt (who is also there by the way) unleashes his inner Jon Snow in the trenches as an entire platoon comes charging at him.
The silver lining is too thin to ignore the dark, dark cloud that is Bhuj. It looms large and sinister over the future of war films in India. If this is how gutsy we're already getting with hate, I wonder what to expect next.
Director: Abhishek Dudhaiya
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sonakshi Sinha, Sanjay Dutt, Ammy Virk