Sunny Kaushal puts his best foot forward. Rohit Chaudhary contributes a few of the livelier moments.
The human memory – and misery – have vital significance in war sagas. They certainly do in Kabir Khan’s digital debut, The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye, a five-part Amazon Prime original that puts Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s Azad Hind Fauj and its soldiers under the spotlight. As the men and women of the Indian National Army (INA) fight to rewrite history and put an end to the horrors heaped upon an enslaved people, there is pain and pillage all around.
The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye, is based on the true story of Indian soldiers who marched towards the capital, with the war cry ‘Challo Dilli’, to free their country from the reign of the British. The Indian National Army (INA), which was forged out of British defeat in Singapore during WWII, was led by the charismatic Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and had the first-ever women infantry regiment anywhere in the world. While these soldiers (men and women) fought against all odds and against the British army to free India, their struggle and story somehow got lost and they became ‘the forgotten army’. With the love story between two soldiers – Sodhi and Maya at the heart of it, the series raises several questions about identity, independence and the idea of the motherland and the cost of freedom. Freedom, that we often take for granted but the freedom that costs countless lives and sacrifices. Fighting to keep freedom alive is often more difficult than fighting to gain freedom.
With broad Bollywood-style strokes, the script (by Kabir Khan, Heeraz Marfatia and Shubhra Swarup) gives full play to dramatic license and incorporates fuzzy romance in what is intended to be a historically accurate account of a chapter of India’s freedom struggle that has since been reduced to a footnote. The result is a significant dilution of the impact of a well-timed tribute to brave men and women who fought not for mere territory and control over minds but for an idea of a nation free in every sense of the word.
Notwithstanding its flaws and convenient generalizations, The Forgotten Army does a far better, and more honest, job of capturing history. It presents a sharp contrast to the shrill, jingoistic renditions of the past that contemporary Mumbai cinema foists upon us in a climate of bitterness and specious narratives. Kabir Khan colors The Forgotten Army just right. Its notions of nation and patriotism spring from a place of undiluted commitment to the idea of true freedom.
In The Forgotten Army, love for the homeland takes unequivocal precedence over narrow divisions of sectarian identity and gender as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose forges a fighting fit outfit made up primarily of British Indian Army soldiers captured by the Japanese after the Battle of Singapore as well as volunteers willing to lay down their lives in the struggle to free India from foreign yoke.
However, Khan, whose late 1990s documentary lies at the root of this long-in-gestation series, is unable to shrug off the Bollywood-induced tendency to let sweep and scale swamp out sharpness of detailing and layering. In the end, The Forgotten Army comes across as more a story of unrequited love than an account of a war that was destined to end in defeat and, as the series suggests, deliberate obliteration.
The Forgotten Army sees the INA’s forays through the recollections of a fictionalized officer, Surinder Sodhi, who was inactive combat in Singapore and Burma between 1942 and 1944. More than 50 years later, visiting his elder sister’s family in Singapore, he opens up to his grand-nephew Amar (Karanvir Malhotra), a journalism student who initially dismisses the old man as “a family weirdo.”
A large part of the story plays out in the first half of the 1940s, when the younger Sodhi (Sunny Kaushal), a man proud of his family’s service to the British Indian Army, is drawn into the INA fold after hearing a stirring Netaji speech which gives the men in the ranks – and, importantly, the women waiting in the wings – the defining marching slogan, “Chalo Dilli.”
The Forgotten Army is also set in 1996, the year the older Sodhi (M.K. Raina), who has been in his shell for decades to tide over the scars of battle, makes the trip to Singapore and then accompanies Amar to Myanmar, a nation in the throes of a pro-democracy uprising led by students and a military junta crackdown on protestors (sounds familiar?). Sodhi physically retraces the journey that he and his comrades – Arshad (Rohit Chaudhary), Rajan (R. Badree), Rasamma (TJ Bhanu) and, most significantly in the context of the narrative, Maya Srinivasan (Sharvari Wagh), a young photo-journalist-turned-soldier, undertook all those years ago.
Each episode begins with a brief voiceover by Shah Rukh Khan. The text of the introduction does not reveal anything that students of history do not already know, but it does spell out the enormity of the odds stacked against the INA and the bravery involved in plunging into the unknown without worrying about the consequences.
Filmed on location in Thailand and on sets erected in Mumbai, The Forgotten Army draws upon true stories and the documented experiences of real INA combatants and blends them with free-wheeling fictionalized elements. One example: a character is given the name Lakshmi (played by Shruti Seth, she is obviously modeled on Lakshmi Sahgal), while another is called Lata Swaminathan (Swaminathan was Lakshmi Sahgal’s pre-marriage family name).
The mini-series devotes a great deal of footage to the founding of the all-women Rani of Jhansi Regiment. “An army is no place for a girl,” Maya’s mother (Amala Akkineni) asserts when she suggests that she has made up her mind to join Netaji’s army.
A pointed conversation between Maya and Sodhi in a subsequent scene puts the birth of the Rani Jhansi Regiment in context. The latter suggests that army positions are for “warrior races”, not for those that are “effeminate”. Maya shoots back: Who decides what’s a warrior race and what isn’t? Differences are sunk in an instant and love blossoms between the two although Maya already has a suitor, Shridhar (Akhil Iyer), who, too, follows her into the INA, setting up the stage for a love triangle. Mercifully, the war zone menage a trois stays on the fringes of the tale.
A little later, Sodhi regurgitates Maya’s words as he addresses the women cadets in his capacity as a training officer. He tells farmhand Rasamma, a victim of a sexual assault by a British officer: “I promise you Rasamma, we will fight together till our last breath for India you dream of.” In a way, that fight is still on, which is why The Forgotten Army is relevant in the present even as it deals with the past.
One of the more interesting aspects of The Forgotten Army is its diverse cast of actors and extras. Sunny Kaushal puts his best foot forward. Rohit Chaudhary contributes a few of the livelier moments. Sharvari Wagh is clearly a talent worth keeping an eye on.
Veterans such as M.K. Raina (whose presence lends gravitas to the series), Nizhalgal Ravi (as Maya’s father) and Amala Akkineni rub shoulders with actors who are just starting out in their careers – Karanvir Malhotra, Paloma Monappa, and TJ Bhanu. And watch out for prolific actor-filmmaker Takeshi Kitano in the role of a Japanese general who leads his force to victory in Singapore.
Megan Thee Stallion is working on a film screenplay
Megan Thee Stallion has confirmed she is working on a film screenplay.
Megan had previously alluded to a feature film development in a NME Big Read interview last month. In a new interview, the Houston rapper confirmed her work in progress and said she was a big horror film fan, but did not specify whether her own work would be part of the genre.
“It’s gonna be something that definitely blows your mind; you’ve never seen it before,” she told Variety.
The rapper also confirmed she would appear as a judge in the renewed second season of Legendary 2, though it still has not begun taping.
“Seeing how hard they work to kill it for three minutes, it made me think, ‘If I’m not going that hard, I need to change my work ethic’,” she said of the show.
Megan did not speak about a shooting incident in July, in which she sustained gunshot wounds in her foot and rapper Tory Lanez was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon in his vehicle. Variety was reportedly told the topic was “off-limits”.
Megan is set to release a collaborative single with Nicki Minaj on Friday (August 7), titled ‘WAP’. Details of her anticipated debut album remain scarce, though she said it would definitely address the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Even though I haven’t already come out with a song with that messaging, I definitely plan on it.”
In July, Megan told NME lockdown had helped her finish the album.
“When I’m by myself, that’s when my creativity comes to me. The whole album was basically written in the living room, the shower, the backyard – just visualise it with me,” she said.
Rohit Shetty begins the shoot of Khatron Ke Khiladi; to share a major portion of his income to help Cine Employees
Rohit Shetty who has started the shoot of the new season of Khatron Ke Khiladi – Made In India from Sunday, is all set to use his work as a way to support many cine employees such as the junior artists, background dancers, stuntmen, light men etc. by directly sending money to the accounts of these individuals as a portion of his remuneration from the show. The action director has always been very generous when it comes to helping people out, especially during the lockdown. He even received an appreciation tweet from the Commissioner of Mumbai Police for facilitating 11 hotels for the frontliners.
Apart from making arrangements for the police department, he has been trying to do his bit to support the cine workers from the beginning of the lockdown. By making his contribution to Film Federation (FWICE) & the photographers who were homebound due to the lockdown caused by the pandemic, Rohit Shetty has definitely won a lot more hearts with this gesture. He had asked his friend Farah Khan to host the initial episodes of Khatron Ke Khiladi – Made In India, but has started shooting for the episodes of this mini-series and has planned to give a major part of his remuneration to help support the Cine Employees.
Khatron Ke Khiladi – Made In India marks the first season where the entire series has been shot entirely in Mumbai.
Do You Know Nawazuddin Siddiqui Used to Apply Fair And Lovely Cream to Have a Lighter Skin Tone?
Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui says that even he has tried to achieve the level of beauty that many beauty products claim to provide to their customers. In his latest interaction with a daily, the actor opened up on a scene from his recently released Netflix film Raat Akeli Hai in which he is seen applying ‘Fair & Lovely’ cream on his face to make the colour of skin turn lighter. Nawazuddin said that not just in a film, he has tried to do the same in real-life as well while believing the fake beauty standards that such products establish in society.
The actor talked to Mid-Day and mentioned that he also used to apply the fairness creams expecting ‘miraculous results’ as it is shown in the advertisements. “I too grew up applying these fairness creams, expecting miraculous results. In fact, I remember that once, I didn’t even realise that the cream I was using wasn’t Fair and Lovely, but some fake called ‘Fare’ and Lovely. I spent a lot of time trying to make my skin fairer,” he said.
Nawazuddin questioned the inclusivity of the film industry and asked how many dark-skinned actors do we have in the industry. He said that he has come to realise how his features and skin colour have actually worked in his favour. “In mainstream Bollywood cinema, is there any really dark actor, male or female? I had an inferiority complex at first. But I guess the good thing is, I realised that since I couldn’t do anything about my face, I would be better to start focussing on my craft. I knew I was nothing when it came to my personality or my looks. It took sometime to come out of that trauma, but I’m glad I made that decision,” Nawaz explained.
Earlier last month, ‘Fair & Lovely’ decided to drop the word ‘fair’ from the brand as the anti-racist protests took shape in the US following the murder of George Floyd who was a black American. The move was hailed by all and was seen as a small but prominent victory in the years of struggle against racism.
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