Lakshya completes 15 years: How Indian Army played a catalyst in the love story of Hrithik and Preity's characters
The Indian Army, that serves as a point of conflict in the love story of Hrithik and Preity's characters in Lakshya, also ends up as the primary force behind their reunion.
Farhan Akhtar has admitted in the past that his 2004 coming-of-age war drama Lakshya, that completes 15 years today on 18 June, borrowed instances of his own life. Just like the protagonist Karan Shergill, Farhan was self-admittedly a lost soul till he discovered his calling in film direction.
While the paths to self-discovery may be the same for the director and his lead character, the profession sets the two stories distinctly apart. The army plays a crucial role in Karan's journey since it pushes him to realign his priorities and re-adjust the direction he wants his life to head into. There is a sense of urgency that may have evaded Lakshya had its focus area been film direction instead of defense forces. The army plays a significant role here also because while filmmaking feeds off one's individual tastes and choices, the army emphasises on serving the mission of a nation, as opposed to the vision of an individual.
In Lakshya, the army is also instrumental in shaping the love life of the protagonist. While Karan is introduced as a disoriented chap, his girlfriend Romila Dutta (Preity Zinta) is painted as a headstrong journalist. Having reported the Indian Army's adventures on ground, she is extremely aware of the effort and sacrifice that goes into becoming an officer. She encourages Karan to pursue his goal of becoming one only after he expresses his desire to join the army. She warns him that he must not stick to his goal only because he wants to prove to his parents, who have lost all hope in him, that he can put his life at stake on the battleground.
However, once he retraces his steps due to lack of focus, she ridicules him for making light of the Indian Army's struggles. Since she is a woman who has lived life on her own terms and emerged as a trailblazer in an industry then dominated by men, Romila cannot help but get puzzled and disillusioned by Karan's fickle-mindedness. She confesses to him there is little future to their relationship because he cannot honour his word, and the lack of commitment towards his professional goals would soon extend to his personal aspirations as well. Her resentment towards Karan, whom she has unconditionally supported all these years, stems more from the respect she has gained for the Indian Army through her first-hand account of their tribulations, rather than her lack of faith in her boyfriend.
The army, which Romila takes great pride in, ends up acting as a deal-breaker in her love life. It leaves no stones unturned at Karan's end either. Though he resumes his stint in the army school post Romila's meltdown, the grueling training emboldens his steely resolve to such an extent that it dilutes the chances of an impending reunion with Romila. Once he becomes the Lieutenant, he calls Romila to mock her as a sign of one-upmanship or 'I told you so'. Genuinely happy for his achievement, she asks him to meet her, only to get a cold response from Karan. He tells Romila that since she decided the terms of parting, he would decide those of reuniting. Again, this streak of retribution traces itself back to the unsparing training of the Indian Army that has made his skin rather impenetrable. His attempt at getting back at Romila lies more in the strenuous process of becoming a high-ranking Indian Army official, rather than in the capacity of a jilted boyfriend. His grudge does him little good as he realises a few days later that she has been engaged to marry another man.
Ironically, the Indian Army that indirectly played a dominant role in separating Karan and Romila eventually serves as the primary factor that leads to their patch-up. While Karan is sent to fight in the Kargill War, Romila fights against all odds to get the opportunity to report the war proceedings. Both of them make extremely individualistic choices in the capacity of career-oriented professionals, which allows them to land in each other's vicinity. The ice cracks when the two witness the impermanence of a soldier's life and the restoration of faith in an army officer's sacrifice on the battlefield.
As they work towards their respective aims, they realise their energies have been channelised into the same direction. While their pace at getting it may be different, their 'lakshya' had always been the same. In the final moments of the film, Romila asks Karan what his next lakshya is now that he has waved the victory flag. He replies saying that his next aim is her. She smiles and hugs him.
But I am sure in her heart she knows that she is not a mission that he can accomplish. On the contrary, she was the nudge into the right direction that he needed the most.
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