J. P. Duttaīs Line of Control - Kargil is the biggest Hindi war film ever made in terms of budget, star cast, and research. However, while walking out of the theater after the film finished I kept thinking that what couldīve been an epic film, remains at the end a decent effort by Dutta to tell the stories of the soldiers that participated in Operation Vijay in Kargil in 1999. The film is told as a docu-drama and the effort put in by Dutta and his team on details relating to costumes, artillery, dates, locations, etc. is perfect. However, what goes against the film is that Dutta has tried to capture on screen almost all of the attacks that took place during the battle, which is a Herculean task, and that is what goes against the overall quality of the film.
The film moves on quite a few tracks, which is expected given the subject and huge star cast. One by one, different battalions are introduced and we learn what points they have to recapture from the Pakistani army and infiltrators. Then we learn of the stories of some of the soldiersī family and loved ones. This is where Duttaīs biggest mistake is. I admire Duttaīs dedication to capture all of stories of the heroes that sacrificed their lives in the battle. However after awhile, it begins to get redundant. This type of storytelling can work for a documentary, but not for a film. I had doubts that with such a huge cast and subject the film could end up being a big "khichdi", and thatīs what it is to a certain extent. However, what does hold the film together and makes it worth watching at least once are the performances, cinematography, some well written scenes, and the reality of the war that Dutta depicts.
With such a huge cast itīs impossible that every actor would have significant screen time and well etched roles. Given that, there are a few performances that do stand out. The stand out performers are Manoj Bajpai and Ashutosh Rana, probably because they have such well written scenes to work with. The chemistry between Bajpai and Rana is amazing and their camaraderie is touching. Ajay Devgan (Lt. Manoj Pandey), Abhishek Bachchan (Capt. Vikram Batra), and Saif Ali Khan (Capt. Anuj Nayyar) have the most screen time compared to other actors, and each actor performs his part with conviction. Sanjay Dutt (Col. Y. K. Joshi) and Suniel Shetty (Rifleman Sanjay Kumar) donīt get a chance to display many histrionics but play their parts well. Akshaye Khanna (Lt. Balwan Singh) again leaves a mark with his performance. The actresses donīt have much scope. However Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, and Esha Deol are able to leave a mark since they have a few more scenes compared to the other actresses. Dutta does deserve credit for having all of his actors and actresses perform naturally and look like the real life people they are supposed to portray.
The dialogues (O. P. Dutta) of the film are well penned, though at times, a few of them are melodramatic and old fashioned. The humor works well, especially the scenes involving Bajpai and Rana. The dialogue-baazi between the characters of Ajay Devgan and Abhishek Bachchan with Pakistani troops are also well written; especially "From Madhuri..with Love," which could very well end up being the dialogue/line of the year. The use of sound effects to cover up the swear words begins to get irritating after awhile. Dutta shouldīve settled for the "A" certificate and let the swear words remain in the film, which wouldīve only made the impact stronger. The cinematography (Karim Khatri) and action sequences (Bhiku Verma) are probably the best one has witnessed for a Bollywood action/war film. The amount of detail in which all of the battle sequences are shot on actual locations are spellbinding. The editing is the biggest drawback of the film. Running a little over four hours, this maybe the longest Hindi/Indian film ever. However, the film does drag in the second half. The "Pyar Bhara Geet" and "Khush Rahena" song sequences couldīve been done without. A special mention must be made of the lyrics (Javed Akhtar) which are very well penned.
Duttaīs attempt to capture the reality of the Kargil battle and pay hommage to the brave soldiers is successful. Heīs able to make our hearts go out to the brave heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country. However, the film couldīve been a masterpiece had Dutta chosen a better method. Even though our hearts go out to soldiers and their families, seeing the same type of sequences one after another with a different soldier and his family begins to seem redundant after awhile.