In the times when terms like nationalism and patriotism have become more of a movement than sentiments, a film like Raag Desh perfectly fits the bill. However, the film talks about the nationalist sentiment when it wasn't a forced trend, but a matter of true honor and pride. Tigmanshu Dhulia brings on screen the lesser known story of INA soldiers and the Red Fort Trials that proved to be the final nail in the coffin of British Army in India.
The film provides the history of what went through in the court martial trials of three Indian soldiers recruited in British Army who went rogue and joined hands with Japanese troops as representatives of Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. The trial, that took place in 1945, was meant to be a showcase of the colonial superiority on the ruled, which backfired immensely. Three soldiers were being tried for the specific act of killing deserters during a battle with the British forces and the general act of treason against the Crown. The Congress mounted a legal defense, led by Mumbai lawyer Bhulabhai Desai, and although the men were found guilty, their sentences were commuted after unrest raged across the country.
While various films on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had talked about the inception and shaping of INA, no one really brought enough notice on the trails that actually paved the way of true 'defence patriotism' amongst the Indian soldiers. Dhulia deserves a special nod for bringing the story upfront and presenting it with as much honesty as possible. The treatment, research, and execution of the film seem authentic and actually take you to the era of Gandhi and Nehru, planning the future of a young independent India. However, the film lacks pace, thrill, and engagement which makes it more like a class of Modern History than an experience to take back home.
The three faujis on trial, Colonel Prem Sehgal (Mohit Marwah), Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Amit Sadh) and Major Shah Nawaz Khan (Kunal Kapoor) do their part complete justice. While Mohit proves himself to be a director's actor, Sadh justifies his Punjabi genes well. Although, it is Kapoor's Khan that shines the brightest, with the right amount of rage and intensity. Kenny Desai as Bhulabhai Desai, the lawyer hired to twist facts in order to save the three, proves his mettle as a serious actor. His namesake Kenny Basumatary is as authentic and real as one can be with the role of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. However, despite brilliant actors on board the film fails to streamline their talent with the plot.
Another thing missing from the film is Dhulia's patent touch of questioning the political scenario. The film is all 'how it happened' and doesn't offer much to ponder on to the whys, whats, behind the way things unfold. The film is more like a document pulled from the back row of history and therefore appears like a dose of information than infotainment.
Raag Desh doesn’t meet the requirements of the historical epic in terms of its production values, pace, and entertainment, but does give the genre's basic requirement of historical information dipped in nationalist sentiments, from top to bottom.
Dhulia initially wanted to show the story as a 6 part TV series, and it would've been better if he had followed that plan instead of crystallising everything within 2:30 hours. The facts crumple upon the plot and the unnecessary humanising of the three 'bravehearts' just bring the pace and temperament of the film down.
Thumbs up for bringing in front the lesser-known story from Netaji's forgotten books, thumbs down for not making it engaging enough. Also, in the end, it does make you feel the air of current political scenario. Why only during the saffronisation of the country, one thought of bringing the 'true nationalist' story at the front? A story which in a very subtle way, points finger at the functioning of Indian National Congress right from the fall of British era. Propaganda much? Well, it's for the audience to find out.