The Hindi movie search for the ideal patriotic narrative has reached a new level of absurdity. Most of the documentation on the sinking of the ‘Ghazi’, an American built submarine operated by Pakistan as its ‘flagship’ naval vessel and its most effective attacker on the high seas, says that she was destroyed in an accident. The fatal damage to the vessel was caused by an internal explosion just before the 1971 war started. However, this movie interpretation dramatically presents the cause of her destruction as a torpedo counter attack by the Indian submarine, S-21, patrolling the coast around Visakhapatnam.
Before the film begins, there is a lengthy and detailed, if somewhat apologetic introduction, saying that this movie is inspired by the ‘Ghazi’ incident, even though it is essentially fiction. It is never explained how an accident that causes the sinking of a submarine before a war begins, could be inspirational. Certainly, it was an opportune elimination of a submarine of the Pakistan Navy, an advanced vessel that had set all sorts of problems to the Indian Naval Force in the previous war of 1965. Of that there is no doubt. The sinking of the ‘Ghazi’ left the Indian Navy in total control of the waters of the Bay of Bengal. This strategic advantage turned the conflict in favor of India, even before the 1971 war had begun.
Yet in the The Ghazi Attack we hear a whole new story about the Captain of S-21, Ranvijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon), a gung-ho commanding officer who has studied military history and is particularly impressed by General George S. Patton and his aggressive approach to warfare, in which the commander must lead from the front and always encounter the enemy as early as possible. Ranvijay’s attitude leads him to frequent run ins with senior members of his crew, and, occasionally, even causes him to pull out his service revolver and wave it around to emphasize his definitive position on taking preemptive action.
The operational activities of a submarine in action are well done in the movie. So is the execution of the scenes in which, a few hundred meters below the sea, the Indian and Pakistani submarines confront each other, eyeball to eyeball, so to speak. But to set a film almost entirely in the claustrophobic confines of a war machine, and to keep your attention fixed on it, needs high quality writing.
This is where the film falls short. Instead of good dialogue, we have the unlikely scenario of Indian officers and men, trapped in a damaged submarine that has already plunged to the ocean floor and which could spring a fatal leak any moment, burst into the rousing notes of Sare Jahan Se Accha and Jana Gana Mana. You get a distinct feeling, by the end of The Ghazi Attack, that Hindi cinema has played the national anthem card once too often.