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Raag Desh  : Politics Without A Crescendo
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Friday, July 28, 2017
Tigmanshu Dhulia
Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Mohit Marwah, Kenneth Desai

There are certain chapters of our history that need to be narrated on celluloid for posterity to be acquainted with them. The landmark case of the British government versus three officers of Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj is an important part of India’s freedom struggle. It’s therefore an appropriate choice of subject for Rajya Sabha TV to produce.


The three soldiers, Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and Prem Sahgal were charged with revolting against the British empire and for murder. It was a classic example of a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh being brought together to represent India. It was left to the brilliance of ailing lawyer Bhulabhai Desai and the political climate to save the trio from the gallows.


In this case lies the story of Netaji and his ‘Chalo Dilli’ chant, the prevailing politics that led to the bifurcation of the country and the arrogance of the British rulers who took time to read the writing on the wall. The Congress, the Akalis and the Muslim League were all growing in strength, each seeking power and it’s all a part of our history. As one person in the film itself put it, every party was preparing for its post-freedom role.


Writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia packs in all this and more. The romance between Prem Sahgal and Captain Lakshmi is interwoven into the political drama. The sincerity is apparent. However, what fails is that Dhulia doesn’t keep the viewer riveted with nail-biting anxiety. In fact the narration is like a flat music piece without the flourish of an orchestra. There’s so much history and politics out there that Tigmanshu’s screenplay sometimes leads to confusion. Even Indian battling Indian when Bose’s breakaway army fights those who’re still with the British, doesn’t evoke the sympathy or the shock that this strange situation demanded.


Kunal Kapoor as Shahnawaz, Amit Sadh as Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and Mohit Marwah as Prem Sahgal, have their abilities. But all of them deliver a starched performance probably directed to be stiffly at attention as army men.  It’s the supporting cast of Kenneth Desai as the defence lawyer, Mrudula Murali as Captain Lakshmi and Kanwaljit Singh as Prem’s father, that’s more at ease.


I’d categorise this more as important cinema than creatively engaging.  


For a film that should’ve stirred feelings of patriotism but doesn’t keep the viewer spellbound, Raag Desh gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author


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