1962 The War in the Hills review: Hotstar owes us a Vacation in the Hills for suffering through Abhay Deol's awful show
1962 The War in the Hills review: Shrill, tacky, and jaw-droppingly amateurish, Abhay Deol's Hotstar war drama is the worst show on a mainstream Indian platform since his cousin Bobby Deol's Aashram.
A failure on all fronts, 1962: The War in the Hills features a Dev D reunion so unholy, it could only have been made worse had Abhay Deol and Mahie Gill gotten together over a bonfire to burn DVDs of that film.
In the years since Deol became the poster boy for parallel cinema, the pendulum has swung in the direction of creative freedom, and then back again. While others no doubt benefited from being led to the Promised Land, Deol has ironically been left behind, participating in the sort of projects that he wouldn’t have touched with a bargepole in the mid-2000s.
Watch the 1962: The War in the Hills trailer here
Mahesh Manjrekar directs all 10 episodes of the Hotstar Original based on the early days of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, routinely shooting himself in the foot with the same dedication that the Deol family is bringing to its mission to destroy Indian streaming. Shrill, tacky, and jaw-droppingly amateurish, 1962: The War in the Hills is the worst show on a mainstream Indian platform since Bobby Deol’s Aashram.
In its brazen attempts to tap into the zeitgeist (Jawaharlal Nehru is shown as a hapless man who spends most of his time hyperventilating), the series ignores every basic tenet of storytelling — an engaging plot, characters that you can empathise with, and an adherence to internal logic. In 1962: The War on Hills, Chinese soldiers talk like Gurgaon gangsters; they rip apart birds with their bare hands, Ozzy Osbourne-style; and on one memorable occasion, get distracted from performing their duties by a batch of fresh paneer.
Dehumanising the ‘enemy’ would have been a problem, had the show not also dehumanised the Indians. Not a single character in this series resembles a real person. Everything they say has been designed to propel the plot — there is exposition to explain exposition.
Tragically choreographed battles can suddenly transition into sappy soap opera-level domestic drama, and then into aimless war room bickering. 1962: The War in the Hills uses the same bizarre framing device that director Kabir Khan brought to his already forgotten 2020 Amazon series, The Forgotten Army — a blazed-looking elderly person recounting war stories to their millennial grandchildren. In no way does this streamline the convoluted plot — now, in addition to following at least half-a-dozen parallel storylines, you’re also expected to invest your emotions into scenes that function purely as another layer of exposition.
Writer Charudutt Acharya thinks so lowly of his audience — you — that not a single thought is left un-highlighted. This isn’t even a first draft; they appear to have filmed the series based on the narration that Acharya delivered to Hotstar execs. Mercifully, The Forgotten Army was only five episodes long. The War in the Hills is a torturous slog with its 10 episodes.
Most of the show, you’d be surprised to learn, takes place not on the frontline, but in a Haryana village — a bubble of sorts where every eligible woman has picked out an army man as her own. It’s understandable why they chose to devote so much time to these scenes — an attempt to make these people somewhat relatable, perhaps — but the drama is toothless.
Forget tackling themes such as PTSD and the human cost of war; The War in the Hills is an ultimately disrespectful portrayal of brave soldiers, because it shows them essentially as unthinking clones incapable of any emotion besides patriotism and innocent love.
The show’s bizarre writing aside, it’s a train wreck on a technical level, too. For one, all the lines have very clearly been dubbed in post-production; and in cases such as Rochelle Rao’s, by persons other than the actor themselves. Paired with the fact that the lines are often out-of-sync with the actors’ mouths, this heightens the sensation that we’re listening to a voiceover narration, instead of actual conversations.
Manjrekar uses a stylised colour palette in the war scenes, but unlike Clint Eastwood, who began this now overused trend, he abandons this approach the second the narrative switches back to a domestic setting. All that this visual imbalance does is leave you wondering if the war is a mass hallucination. And then there are the atrocious visual effects, including but not limited to shoddy green-screen work, muzzle flashes imported from the PlayStation 2 era, and glaringly artificial environments.
It’s so disheartening to witness the disintegration of an industry that we’d all hoped would bring about a welcome change to how we tell stories. But in a rush to churn out as much ‘content’ as possible, the streamers have swallowed whatever junk that’s been shoved down their throats and clogged up their insides. A colonoscopy is in order.
1962 The War in the Hills
Director - Mahesh Manjrekar
Cast - Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill, Sumeet Vyas, Meiyang Chang, Akash Thosar, Annup Sonii
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar