The first half of War Chhod Na Yaar has the pitch-perfect tone of a war comedy with some real gems that bind the narrative, writes Nishi Tiwari.
When our mind is free of ideas of what human relationships ought to be or when we are simply pressed for options, we forge the unlikeliest of associations.
Faraz Haider makes that primal need for human contact the focus of his story in his directorial debut War Chhod Na Yaar.
Hailed as India’s first war comedy, implying as if the film needs to be watched on that merit alone, War Chhod Na Yaar stars Sharman Joshi, Jaaved Jaffrey and Soha Ali Khan in lead roles.
Joshi’s Raj and Jaffrey’s Qureshi serve as Captains of the Indian and Pakistani armies respectively, stationed at the border.
Despite serving on opposing sides, Raj and Qureshi are friends who often spend slow days verbally sparring -- there are a lot of genuinely funny and witty exchanges between the two -- and playing antakshari.
Joshi and Jafferey in the comic scenes make a formidable pair. We are all familiar with Sharman Joshi’s killer comic timing and Javed Jaffrey’s acting prowess, who’s shined only sporadically in his long career, thanks to lack of original writing or roles.
And then there’s Soha Ali Khan as Rut Dutta (presumably fashioned after Barkha Dutt?), an aggressive television journalist who comes across as meek and only slightly aloof.
She’s commissioned by the Union Defense Minister of the country (Dalip Tahil) to cover a story about an impending Indo-Pak war at the border.
Speaking of Dalip Tahil, the actor plays four roles in the film -- he is also seen as the Defence Minster of Pakistan, China and the USA, as conspirators of the war.
His caricature-ish portrayal of all four is fun to watch, so are Sanjay Mishra as Commander Khan and Manoj Pahwa, the video game addict Pakistani army general.
The first half of the film has the pitch-perfect tone of a war comedy with some real gems that bind the narrative.
Complaining about the quality of food served to his men, the Pakistani army general says to his defense minister, "Humaare afsar aajkal intelligence se zyada gas pass kar rahe hain (Our officers are passing more gas than intelligence these days).’
So what happens when all jokes have been cracked and comic scenarios explored? The film begins its descend downhill.
Suddenly, delightful irreverence gives way to unwarranted melodrama coupled with the makers’ lofty ideas of positive change brought on by a revolution.
It’s like watching Anil Kapoor’s Nayak, only here, a journalist -- who poses the most painfully generic and inane questions to an army captain, like ‘don’t you want to stop this (war)’ -- is responsible for the moral cleansing of not one but two countries and their respective people.
Then follows the most common affliction most Hindi filmmakers making a conscious effort to break new grounds suffer from.
The camaraderie between the captains and their subordinates assumes a more jingoistic tone.
Inaccurate depiction of a war zone -- a civilian crosses the border to briefly go to the other side (in a war zone, no less), there’s constant firing from both sides but the body count is zero till the end -- and flippant dialogues like ‘Aaj humara media adult hua hai (Our media has grown up today),’ undo the first half’s good work.
All said and done though, this is a start. Hope India’s second war comedy will stick to the brief.