Raag Desh movie review: The stagey treatment lets it down

Raag Desh movie review: Tigmanshu Dhulia's directed film, Raag Desh has lofty ambition, but the stagey treatment lets it down. The definitive INA film is still to be made. The war scenes are plentiful but you can't help seeing the clunkiness. The film stars Mohit Marwah, Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: July 29, 2017 12:39 am
Raag Desh movie review, Raag Desh review, Raag Desh movie, Raag Desh, Kunal Kapoor, Mohit Marwah, Amit Sadh Raag Desh movie review: The story is told through a series of flashbacks and the trial of three young soldiers, Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah.

Raag Desh movie cast: Mohit Marwah, Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor, Kenny Desai
Raag Desh movie director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Raag Desh movie rating: Two stars

When the subject itself is still so charged and propulsive, and the director is Tigmanshu Dhulia who has such an acute sense of place and context, you expect a great tango of both story and substance from Raag Desh.

The film revolves around the creation of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, and its short-lived but powerful impact. But it is not what it promises to be: the convincing origin story of one of the most fascinating parts of Indian history, and how the soldiers of the INA, were, in a manner, a fraught bridge between the Indian freedom struggle and the British efforts during the second World War.

Even today, the myths around Netaji abound: where he came from is well known, but his end is still wreathed in mystery. “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazaadi doonga”: this thunderous statement from Bose (played in the film by Kenny Basumatary) is part of every history text book, a thrilling testament to how a charismatic leader can galvanise so many, and make them follow him till the ends of the earth.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks and the trial of three young soldiers (Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah) of the INA, charged with murder and treason, whose case is fought by the celebrated lawyer Bhulabhai Desai (Kenny Desai). Through the eyes of the three soldiers— a Hindu, a Sikh, and a Muslim–we see how a remarkable ‘army’ was born, and how ‘desh ki azaadi’ was also its motto, even if its ways were so antithetical to Mahatma Gandhi ‘s nonviolent struggle.

The war scenes are plentiful but you can’t help seeing the clunkiness (when will Bollywood make a film like, for example, the recent Dunkirk, which you can slam on many counts but not in the solid recreation of battle scenes). And the back-and-forthing between the past and present is not as clear as it could be, given the complexity of the events the film is trying to unravel: it was a time when the Allies and the Axis forces were trying to save the world from Hitler, and India was on the cusp of ‘azaadi’.

Making the three INA soldiers represent the religious diversity of the Indian people could have been a wonderful device, given the times we are passing through, but it comes off clichéd. And with a few exceptions (Sadh, Verma, and Desai, who excel in a few moments) the performances feel forced.

Raag Desh has lofty ambition, but the stagey treatment lets it down. The definitive INA film is still to be made.

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  1. Upadhyay Rathi Raj
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:32 pm
    It is very unfortunate that the INA soldiers have been conveniently forgotten, they were not taken into the 'independent' Indian armed forces and not even considered to be ex-servicemen. It is also intriguing to see that the soldiers who served the British army and left BEFORE Independence, are still treated as ex-servicemen with full benefits. Eg, an Indian soldier recruited in 1940 and demobilised in 1945, is still an "ex-serviceman" despite having no contribution to the Indian Armed Forces after 1947. A gross injustice towards the soldiers of INA who fought, suffered and died with a dream of Free India.
    1. T
      Aug 8, 2017 at 8:22 pm
      What's the point of making a historical drama, if your target audience is only a microscopic elite minority, supposedly well-versed in History, and English? The film was a good blend of War and Court-room drama. I, for my part, loved the movie (though found it difficult to understand in some parts). But the flashbacks were chopped in between the narration so confusingly, that even persons with fair knowledge on History, found it difficult to follow. Which is why this movie could not reach the masses as it should have. Also, font size of sub les (for English parts) was very small. No sub les for Punjabi dialogues.
      1. Upadhyay Rathi Raj
        Sep 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm
        You must not blame the film maker for his efforts, but rather blame those who have deliberately kept the contributions of INA soldiers and those of Royal Indian Navy, who forced the British to determine their date of departure. Congress. Nehru had to downplay the contributions of INA to maintain his claim over the rule of Independent India. Out history books stop with Subhash Chandra Bose and nothing about INA.
      2. G
        Aug 2, 2017 at 6:12 pm
        1. P
          Pankaj Kumar
          Jul 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm
          This review does not do full justice to the film. The film definitely has its drawbacks, technically it is far from being brilliant . But that is not what the film is about. It conveys what it sets out to do, informative, refreshing and patriotic, 'stagey treatment' probably gives it an authenticity?' Most of the performances are well above average, some are to the extent of being brilliant. Surely the best movie of the year up till now.
          1. S
            Jul 29, 2017 at 7:23 pm
            This review is biased. Movie is best. Watch it with your family.
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