Vijeta is the war film with a difference that deserves a rewatch this Independence Day

Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint

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A war movie that barely shows any war, that’s subtle and gentle and doesn’t have even one chest-thumping Bharat Mata moment, or even a song placed purely to yank the strings of your patriotic heart, seems like an oxymoron. But that’s precisely why Govind Nihalani’s 1982 classic Vijeta remains one of the best Hindi movies about India’s armed forces.

There’s a scene in the film in which Angad Singh, a young Indian Air Force pilot readying for his first war, is sitting with his friend and fellow officer. The two share what is going through their minds before they take to the skies to defend their nation.

His friend laughs and says if he survives, he’ll take the plunge and get married, but Angad is thinking about the fact that he will soon be flying over the land that his ancestors are from, warring against people who once shared a country with his family. And he is scared of inadvertently killing innocent people.

The scene is remarkable for a number of reasons. One, the poignancy of the warrior’s dilemma that humanises a section of people we are now constantly told are infallible, flawless, to be venerated and never questioned — the Indian armed forces.

The second reason is that this is a movie about IAF pilots in which the actual war they fight is given barely a few minutes of screen time, towards the end. Then, there is Angad’s awareness that this is not a fight with the people of another country. There is no jingoistic demonising of the other — in fact, although there are clues to indicate this is the 1971 war, nowhere, in this scene or in the entire movie, is the name of the ‘enemy’ country ever clearly stated.

And finally, there’s the fact that one of Angad’s closest friends in the IAF is a man from Andhra Pradesh named Venkat Raju; the others are Aslam Khan from Allahabad and Wilson from Bhopal. This seems like an inconsequential detail, but it’s just one example of the quietly determined pluralism that runs through Vijeta like a leitmotif.

This Independence Day weekend, watch Vijeta, a war film showing an inclusive and diverse India.

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