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1962 The War In the Hills review: We suffered through this Hotstar Special so you don’t have to

1962: The War In the Hills review: Set in 1962, just as the 1962 Indo-China war is about to break out, the show pretends to be a period piece, but fails miserably.

Rating: 1 out of 5
Written by Ektaa Malik | New Delhi |
Updated: February 27, 2021 8:40:10 am
1962 The War In the Hills, 1962 The War In the Hills review1962 The War In the Hills review: This web series is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

1962 The War In the Hills cast: Abhay Deol, Sumeet Vyas, Mahie Gill
1962 The War In the Hills director: Mahesh Manjrekar
1962 The War In the Hills rating: One star

“Hindi-Cheeni toh bhai bhai hai naa?”
“The. Ab bahut hi jald bye bye hone waale hai”.

This bomb of a dialogue is lobbed at us in the first few minutes of 1962: The War In the Hills. The latest offering from Disney+ Hotstar never really recovers after that. What adds to the bile rising in your throat is the song ‘Mere naan chin-chin-chu’ from the 1958 film Howrah Bridge playing in the background. The show, a regrettably long 10-episode cringefest— which, as the name suggests, is based on the Sino-Indian war of 1962, makes you want to rub your eyes in disbelief and pinch yourself hard, because what we are watching is best described as ‘theatre of the absurd’, sans the literary layers and gravitas.

Set in 1962, just as the 1962 Indo-China war is about to break out, the show pretends to be a period piece, but fails miserably. Abhay Deol plays the protagonist Major Suraj Singh, who commands a C company in the India Army. Mahie Gill is his dutiful wife. We get major flashbacks of Dev D, but there is neither the fireworks nor the worthy performances we saw in the Anurag Kashyap film here.

A chunk of soldiers from Deol’s C Company hail from Rewari, a town in Haryana, and are deployed on the frontline of the Indo-China border. So far, the brief is simple, and the story line defined. But everything else about this Hotstar Special is loud and confusing, and has the quality of a middle-school production. Not that the makers haven’t tried. In fact, they appear to be trying too hard – we get to see the back stories of all the soldiers, there are mentions of PTSD, of love triangles and perils of being a single father. There is a reference to the rigid caste system too!

However, nothing can salvage this travesty. Numerous times during the war, stagey meetings take place between the defence minister, senior Army brass and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru where they worry about how winter will play the defining card in the war. Nobody seems to remember this, however, in the badly shot climax where soldiers give no intimation that they are fighting in chilling cold.

1962 the war in the hills What we really want to know is, what made Abhay Deol say yes to the project? (Photo: Arre Studios)

Maybe it was the current anti-China sentiment that egged on the makers to go ahead with the project. Developments in Doklam, Pangong Lake and the Chinese presence in certain parts of the country have been doing the rounds of primetime news for a while. Ali Express, TikTok and their ilk have disappeared from the Indian digital landscape, Covid-19 did nothing to alleviate the anti-China sentiment, in fact globally we saw a resurgence of hate crimes and hate speech against East Asians. The makers fail to capitalise on the opportunity though – there is merely a suspicion of a script and accomplished actors sleepwalk their way to the 10-episode finishline.

Arif Zakaria plays Nehru, replete with the sherwani and the red rose tucked in. We meet a young Indira as well, as they discuss India’s Forward Policy against China. Then there is Meiyang Chang who plays a PLA officer with a golden heart and who fights the war with honour. Save some eye-rolls for Rimpa too, a nomadic, Ladakhi local who magically appears at places where significant military moments are happening.

What we really want to know is, what made Abhay Deol say yes to the project? And even Sumeet Vyas, the darling of the OTT space, what made him play that cliched character of a single father?

Well, we suffered through 1962: The War In the Hills, so you don’t have to.

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