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AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYO. Director: Anil Sharma. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Divya Khosla, Sandali Sinha. Music: Anu Malik. Theatrical release.
With the exception of J.P. Dutta’s Bor-der (1997), war films in recent years have not scored huge box offices. Hindi film scripts, however, continue banking on the hot-again cold-again currents of India-Pakistan border tensions (Lakshya, Dutta’s own LOC). As a stand-alone Bobby Deol war movie, ATHWS would have limited appeal. With weightier Bachchan and Akshay Kumar tossed in, however, the war-oriented flick finds an appreciable romantic war-thriller niche.
With the 1971 India-Pakistan war as a backdrop, Shaktimaan’s script exploits an uncharacteristic thaw in the normally-frosty relations between the two neighbors; the two countries are shown here actually bonding. A slacking, morally gray army officer (Deol) uses womanizing and petty schemes to avoid “adult” responsibilities, much to the disappointment of his war-veteran grandfather (Bachchan). This slacker’s ways are tested when he makes a play for the would-be widow (Khosla) of a heroic solder (Kumar) given up for dead.
The two parallels (Does the rogue officer get the woman he thinks is a widow? Does he repent for his less-than-perfect past?) converge naturally. Director Sharma (Gadar) aptly handles overlapping border-related tensions with romantic complications. There are sand storms and horse races and a couple of catchy song sequences. Malik is at his best in the title song and the bittersweet “Mujhe pyar do.”
The film’s most memorable scenes, interestingly, are the fleeting shots of Kashmir’s colossal Amarnath Cave, where Hindu devotees make an annual walking pilgrimage to a naturally ice-formed Shiva-lingam. The race-against-time finale builds on bringing together Indian and Pakistani intelligentsia, who converge near the pilgrimage center for a détente. Throw in some of the best one-liners Bachchan has uttered in quite some time, and a decent Anu Malik score, and ATHWS delivers.
Aniruddh Chawda writes from Wisconsin, on America’s north coast.