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 loc - kargil
Director :
Music :
Lyrics :
Starring :
 J P Dutta
 Anu Malik
 Javed Akhtar
 Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Akshaye Khanna, Manoj Bajpai, Ashutosh Rana, Sanjay Kapoor, Bikram Saluja, Himanshu Malik, Karan Nath, Amarr Upadhyay, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol, Rani Mukherjee, Mahima Chowdhary, Raveena Tandon

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

Once in a blue moon, maybe longer, there comes along a film that has the inner strength and conviction and the power to change our lives.

"LOC" is one such rarity. It isn't a smooth-sailing feel good film with captivating romance, humour and songs like "Kal Ho Naa Ho" or "Munnabhai MBBS". Nor is it a self-consciously told slice of reality.

The story of what happened to our soldiers in Kargil, when they combated Pakistani invaders and pushed them back with superhuman force, could cover at least seven or eight major motion pictures.

They never will. Hindi cinema shies away from history. J.P. Dutta can stare historical facts straight into the eye.

Just like those Pakistani bullets, which hit Indian soldiers straight in their eyes, Dutta's film is a sharp-shooting piece of art.

A tale of inhuman resilience with a cast of characters that would make Cecil B. DeMille throw his hands up in the air, "LOC" is quite simply the finest war epic ever produced in India.

The stunning visual aesthetics of war's gruesome repercussions, the forbidding hinterland where some of our most charismatic stars transform into those real-life soldiers who fought to their death, and the sheer strength of Dutta's narrative temperament sweep us into a world where we've never been before. And probably never will again.

In terms of the panoramic sweep in the battle zone, and the sheer volume of aggression achieved in the frames, "LOC" is comparable with the best war epics from the west -- from David Lean's "The Bridge On The River Kwai" to Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan".

Cynical sections of cineasts believe Bollywood has neither the talent nor the staying power to equal the technical excellence of Hollywood. Here's ample evidence to the contrary. The battle scenes are shot with an epic sublimity and an electric immediacy. When the soldiers run down those impossible heights, charging against the unseen enemy, we feel their patriotic energy and their sheer survival instinct run down our spine.

The film lodges itself in an infallible place in our hearts.

The mammoth mastery of Karim Khatri's cinematography gallops across the lengthy narrative, tearing through every frame with splendour. To be sure, this is one of the best mounted, photographed and edited films in living memory.

Unlike well-known war films from Hollywood, which look at the battleground completely from the male point of view, J.P. Dutta infuses an intimate poignancy into the rugged soldiers' tale.

As in his (inferior-in-every-detail) "Border", the battle-weary soldier-heroes stop long enough to rejuvenate themselves with thoughts of their loved ones.

The vast cast of female stars swish across the film in fleeting frames... almost like scenes glimpsed from a speeding train. Only Kareena Kapoor as Saif Ali Khan's (playing Captain Anuj Nayyar) Significant Other manages to make a significant space for herself. Her disbelieving self-denial at the end when her lover's coffin is brought home is one of the many everlasting moments from this passionate pastiche of tragic patriotism.
For all practical purposes, "LOC" is the boys' film.

Dutta has extracted astoundingly credible performance from all the actors, big and small. From Sanjay Dutt as Colonel Y.K. Joe to Bikram Saluja as one of the soldiers in Dutt's regiment, every actor slips into his role with consummate skill.

More for the way their roles are etched into the freewheeling but never unwieldy screenplay, Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Ashutosh Rana and Akshaye Khanna make a larger impression than the others.

Abhishek Bachchan's death scene after he strikes his enemies with the words, "from Madhuri, with love" (immediately after he's challenged by a Pakistani soldier to send Madhuri Dixit across to Pakistan) is a moment of great cinema. Hold it close to your heart. Cinema doesn't get any purer -- or more powerful -- than this.

With each soldier's death, we the audience die a thousand deaths. The film's pain-lashed and choleric recreation of history assumes a bludgeoning impact in the hands of the master creator. The guns are real. And so are the tears that the soldiers and their wives shed each time a colleague dies. We're apart from and yet a part of the processes of history that drive two countries into postures of mutual mutilation.

Through the bullets and smoking guns, Dutta succeeds in creating a sense of regret and tragedy about the invaluable losses that we suffer in our quest for supremacy.

A great deal of the belligerent poignancy achieved in the narration comes through in Dutta's explosive yet thought provoking dialogues (though every soldier translating his English utterances into Hindi does seem odd) and Aadesh Shrivastava's evocative and understated background score (comparable with Maurice Jarre's background scores for David Lean's cinema).

Anu Malik's songs are achingly sweet, like a moaning melody heard during a dirge.

In communicating a crisp contemporariness to recent history and in supervising the gigantic canvas without losing even the smallest tendrils in the narrative (even 'soldier' Himanshu Malik leaves an impression in one-and-a-half scenes), J.P Dutta proves himself the lord of the ranks.

His visual propriety compounded by a concern for high aesthetics makes him one of the most significant modern voices in today's mainstream cinema.

"LOC" must be seen by every Indian, every fan of war epics and relevant cinema. It must be seen for its extraordinary war scenes and for its emphatic portrayal of the ravages of human aggression. Finally, it must be watched to see how our stars transform themselves given the right opportunity.

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