War Chhod Na Yaar review: A fun watch despite a botched-up climax
As a war satire, the director's greatest achievement is that he has managed to make something as grim as war funny.
There are tanks, soldiers and the Indo-Pak border, but War Chhod Na Yaar is miles away from JP Dutta's (the maker of Border, LOC: Kargil) universe. Director Faraz Haider's war zone isn't populated by the A-listers of Bollywood, none of his characters deliver high-pitched patriotic lines and the battlefield isn't a gruesome sight of mutilated bodies. In fact, this is the only Indian war film that I have seen where there isn't a drop of blood that's shed or a single dead body that falls to the ground.
War Chhod Na Yaar is a war satire and Haider greatest achievement is that he has managed to make something as grim as war funny. The jokes, although mediocre, are fresh, the repartee is engaging, and all this makes most of the film a fun watch.
Haider's real trump card in the film is his cast. Sharman Joshi does a commendable job as an Indian captain RS Rana. Jaaved Jaffrey, last wasted in Besharam, is endearing as Pakistan's captain Qureshi and Sanjay Mishra as the flaky commander of Pakistani Army delivers competently. Mukul Dev too deserves a special mention for his superb performance as an idiotic Afghan infiltrator.
But the actor who really stands out in the film is Dalip Tahil. Haider very cleverly uses Tahil to show how irrespective of the caste, creed or country, all politicians have only one religion - money. Tahil plays four different roles in the film, that of an Indian minister, Pakistan's President, Chinese politician and a US diplomat. All these characters have two things in common: they are politicians and they are all opportunists.
Soha Ali Khan is the only woman in bro-fest and with War Chhod Na Yaar, she joins the group of actresses who has in past tried to play the Barkha Dutt-esque reporter onscreen. However as Rut Dutta -- we're not going to speculate if Haider meant for us to think of the English meaning of 'rut' while thinking of Barkha -- the first thing she does upon reaching the border is scan the men in uniform as if she was browsing through profiles of perspective grooms on BharatMatrimony.com or Shaadi.com.
No prizes for guess Captain Rana catches her eye. Khan's character is perhaps the most ill-sketched character of the film. Like most celluloid journos, it appears in case of Rut Datta too that the necessary traits for a media professional are flawless tresses and great skin. It is a pity because she was wonderful as a scribe in Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan.
However, War Chhod Na Yaar's greatest failing is that Haider takes sides, and in a tacky way. Although the film begins with a promising note of Joshi and Jaffrey sitting on two sides of the barbed wires that separates the two nations -- playing cards, pulling legs and exchanging booze -- the moment the two return to their respective posts, you cannot help but notice that while the soldiers of the Indian army seems like they are out of a documentary sponsored by Defense Ministry.
They're disciplined, well-fed and happy to serve the nation while their Pakistani counterparts appear almost stupid, demotivated and an aimless bunch under the weak leadership of an incapable Pak commander (Sanjay Mishra).
Haider's grasp over international politics doesn't come across as particularly strong, and so potentially biting satire becomes a string of cliches. The Pakistani president (Tahil) never appears on camera without his video-game playing Army Chief (Manoj Pahwa) at his side, constantly reminding the audience who the real boss is.
Uncle Sam, represented by the US diplomat Shaun (Tahil again), is shown to be the ones selling arms to facilitate war, and in turn making a profit out of it. China, represented by a Chinese politician who promises to sell 'Made In China' nuclear weapon to Pakistan, is depicted as a warmonger.
In addition, the climax of the film is, ironically, when the film first slows down and eventually falls flat, thanks to a director trying to take a controversial stance but without really justifying it. (See? No spoilers.) Eventually, the film becomes more preachy than a moral science class.
However, if you have the patience to endure that last bit, the other 100 minutes of the film are actually very enjoyable. The climax is 15-20 minutes long and you will feel an excruciating blah-ness for those minutes. But, despite the blotched-up, preachy ending, the film is worth a watch.
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