Raag Desh Review
Cat: Mohit Marwah, Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor, Mrudula Murali and Kenneth Desai
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Quick take: Superb historical drama
Rating: 3 stars
In an industry obsessed with romance, action and comedy, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s choices as a filmmaker really stand out. His latest film is a retelling of one of India’s lesser known episodes from the freedom struggle history. Raag Desh recreates the world of Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA (Indian National Army) and their rivalry with the British empire and the British governed Indian army. A large part of this film is a court room drama and the rest shows the soldiers’ struggles on field. On both accounts, the film creates a detailed and authentic experience. Its not only relevant it is a riveting look back at India’s real history.
The story is centered around three INA soldiers Shah Nawaz Khan (Kunal Kapoor), Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Amit Sadh) and Prem Sahgal (Mohit Marwah) and their trial in a British Army court in 1945. The Raj is hell bent in proving that these soldiers and INA were traitors, while the soldiers are out to prove their cause for the independence of India. In the midst of the then high profile case are such players like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, lawyer Bulabhai Desai, Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi and a whole host of recognizable names from India’s freedom struggle era. The way the Indian National Congress and supporters of the INA defend these soldiers’ honour in the British court makes for the main drama in Raag Desh.
The narrative keeps jumping back and forth as witness testimonials in court recollect the INA’s history between 1942 and 1945. Its during these hral backs that the film showcases the soldiers and their struggles in combat and conflict. The production design is top notch. Raag Desh looks like a period film and the army environs look authentic. The court room drama is done well too. Its not melodramatic at all. In fact, it presents great logical arguments and the drama is pitch perfect. The writing is great, the characters are quirky and the casting is top notch. Most actors look exactly like their real-life characters. The only problem with the film is the music. There’s a relentless barrage of patriotic music and tunes playing at unnecessarily loud volumes. This effect only amplifies during the climax which just gets a bit too tedious.
One of the many strengths of this film though is the cast. The performances by Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah are earnest and full of intensity. Kenny Desai plays Bhulabhai Desai with great effect. The performances all round are top notch. They aide Tigmanshu’s story telling effect.
Raag Desh recreates an important chapter of Indian history. Best part is, it does so with great detail and authenticity. This film stands out from average Hindi cinema fare, by telling a relevant story with good finesse and élan. Its politics is clean and its drama is strong. A solid effort by Tigmanshu Dhulia in creating real drama from a true story.