In the current political climate of India, people on both sides of the political spectrum are defining nationalism on their own terms. However, something that all of us can never shy away from is the untold horror that was the wars of the 20th century unfolded. Amidst this fervour comes a TV series attempting to portray the untold story of the Indian soldiers caught in the coattails of the consecutive wars that left the world a hollow shell of its former self.
Based on the real life story of the Indian National Army led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, The Forgotten Army – Azaadi ke Liye attempts to rewrite history from the lens of a soldier. At the time of its inception, the Indian National army was relegated as nothing but the casualty of the humiliating defeat of the British in Singapore. Out of this utter ignominy the Indian National Army was born. So far a narrative was handed out to them – fight for the British and die for the British. The deprived narrative was then turned into a ruffled call for the motherland – “Chalo Dilli ” as the soldiers chanted while marching through holding their lives on the line. The film is directed by Kabir Singh, who made his directorial debut with The Forgotten Army in 1999 has noted that this film was 20 years in the making, and much research has gone into the making.
The foundation of the series starts off on very familiar lines, where an older character reminisces of the glorious past that once was. The protagonist is played by Sunny Kaushal with Sharvari as the female lead. The conflict is foreshadowed in several dialogues, as the characters are made to think about the times of war. The characters are charming in conception. The series also talks about the inception of the world’s first every female infantry by Subhash Chandra Bose, which is seldom talked about. These are some of the firsts in any adaptation. The bulk of the strength of this series lies in the historical aspect. However, this is where much of the tale is diluted. The story that could be about the strength and valor of the 60,000 soldiers that lost their lives in the war as they became refugees is later thinned down into a love story. The visuals are accurate for the era and the attention to detail is impressive. It is clouded by a blatant attempt to turn it into a people pleaser; a mass entertainer. Instead of laying a focus on the soldiers and an accurate portrayal of history, the film lays down its heart and soul into the love story of the lead. While that in itself is not a bad thing per se, it makes for disillusionment in the audience. The series is advertised heavily as something that is to rouse our sense of national pride, but we see it wavering from its purpose way more than what would make it respectable. The overdramatized narrative certainly does not help in any way either.
Perhaps the biggest flaw is in the dialogues. This is where the The Forgotten Army suffers the most. The dialogues are inflammatory and unimpressive. Expletives are inserted in places just for the sake of it and it just speaks of bad taste. Certain punchlines that are supposed to make the audience stand in awe simply fall flat due to either poor execution or poor formulation. But – the criticism does not end there. While Sunny Kaushal managed to give a respectable performance as the lead, most of the supporting cast leaves much to be desired. The best performance is by Sharvari as Maya.
The thematic aspect is also rather commendable. Several themes are very embedded into the storyline – sacrifice, identity, freedom and so on. While the idea of the series is very noble and powerful, the execution leaves much to be desired. The symptoms of confirmation have relegated this series to be an average watch reserved for the slow weekends and for the history nerds.
We give it 2.5 Chirps.