The painful saga of retreat

Haqeeqat (1964) is undoubtedly the best war based movie ever made in India. I term Haqeeqat, Border (1997) and LOC – Kargil (2003) as three genuine war based movies made under Hindi cinema. The later two were made by J.P. Dutta whereas Haqeeqat is a brain-child of Chetan Anand, one of the most respected film-directers of Bollywood. The other thing that distinguishes Haqeeqat from the other two movies is that Border and LOC – Kargil narrate the stories of victories of the Indian army in the wars (against Pakistan) whereas Haqeeqat narrates the painful saga of retreat after a humiliating defeat suffered by India in the war against China in 1962. A wicked neighbour of ours backstabbed us by disguising as our friend and we were caught awestruck by that. How painful it has been for every patriot Indian that time ! And still how painful it is to recall and feel that defeat even after passing of half a century since then ! Haqeeqat was made just a couple of years after that forgettable war which, unfortunately, cannot be forgotten. It is highly realistic. And so highly painful as well.Made with the assistance of the Govt. of India, Haqeeqat (truth / reality) is the story of a platoon of Indian soldiers in hilly terrain of Laddakh who are first considered as dead by the Indian army when the war with China is still on (in October 1962) but when it is known that they are alive, they get instruction to retreat to their base. The retreat is not that easy. The Chinese military is there aiming for their blood on one hand and the poor weather alongwith the difficult path with little resources on the other. A local girl Angmo (Priya Rajvansh) and her beau, Captain Bahadur Singh (Dharmendra) assist the Indian soldiers led by Major Ranjeet Singh (Balraaj Saahni) in retreating by keeping the Chinese attackers at bay. The path is difficult, the weather is not so kind either and above all, there are little resources with the soldiers to keep themselves alive and energetic. Little wonder, maintaining a high morale during this unusually painful journey is nothing short of a Herculean task for them. This painful saga concludes with the platoon reaching its base after losing many of its members during the retreat and after the sacrifices of Bahadur Singh and Angmo while fighting with the Chinese.

Though it has not been claimed anywhere, this movie is actually a take on the Battle of Rezang La in the hilly terrains with the armymen being ill-equipped to fight the mighty enemy. Rezang La has been one of the several pockets of the Indian army which delivered a brave resistance despite scarcity of resources and finally ensured a ceasefire with the enemy in that lost war. Well, the selfish and insensible (as well as insensitive) politicians and bureaucrats could (and can) never understand the difficulties, the endangering of own lives and the patriotism of the brave soldiers. This is perhaps the most harsh truth (Haqeeqat) of our country.

Haqeeqat did not win any awards but it was considered as the second best feature film in 1965. Irrespective of getting or not getting awards, it is an all time great war movie made in our country. The war scenes are less in the movie but the shadows of war are throughout there in each and every sequence. This movie deals at length with the psyche of the soldiers who are trapped in danger with little resources as well as little energy left with them but the dream to go back and meet their beloveds is still in their eyes. The songs like Main Yeh Sochkar Uske Dar Se Utha Tha and Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bhulaaya Hoga have been used with brilliance to underscore this mindset of them.

The art director of this movie is M.S. Sathyu who later on made a classic movie – Garm Hava (1973) himself. The art director has brought the environment prevailing at that time and at that place alive on the screen and the cinematographer also has done an outstanding job for this black and white movie. It’s a movie whose each and every frame deserves admiration and recognition of the efforts behind.

The seasoned director has left no stone unturned in making a memorable movie which brings tears to the eyes of the spectators in several scenes. The script is well-knitted and its presentation on the screen is nothing short of outstanding. There are several scenes in the movie which can be considered as real gems. One is Major Ranjeet Singh’s proposing Angmo when it is known that Bahadur Singh is dead and her refusing his proposal. Another is the outburst of Angmo’s younger brother towards Major Ranjeet Singh when he tells him that Bahadur Singh is dead with Angmo telling strictly to her younger brother to speak to Major Ranjeet Singh with respect. And finally, it’s the rape-scene in the ending reels of the movie when the Chinese get hold of Angmo and as a part of her torture, rape her. This scene has been shown on the screen in such an indirect and subtle way that I realized long after watching the movie that it was actually a rape-scene. This speaks volumes for the talent of the director.

Performances are great. Dharmendra, Balraaj Saahni, Jayant (as the army brigadier) and the child artist playing the role of Angmo’s younger brother have done marvellously. Alongwith them, there are Vijay Anand, Sudhir, Sanjay, Mac Mohan and many more actors playing the roles of the tired and wounded soldiers and all of them have done exceedingly well infusing life into the respective characters. Priya Rajvansh debuted through this movie and though she looks pretty, her acting limitations are evident. Perhaps it’s been a reason behind her not doing movies of any director other than Chetan Anand in her career. There are several female characters in cameos who have created a strong impact in the movie despite being present in odd scenes only.

The talk of Haqeeqat can never be complete without the mention of its great music. Azeem Shaayar Janaab Kaifi Aazmi has penned the immortal lyrics and Madan Mohan has made unforgettable compositions for them. In my list of top twenty Hindi movie songs, I have kept Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bhulaaya Hoga at the numero uno position. This is the song of a lifetime sung by four stalwarts of Hindi film music – 1. Bhupinder, 2. Mohammed Rafi, 3. Talat Mahmood and 4. Manna Dey. Each of these four singers has sung a stanza and each stanza is a tear-jerker in itself. Watching this song on the screen is just like watching a complete movie within a few minutes. Kar Chale Hum Fida Jaan-o-Tan Saathiyo (Rafi) is another immortal song from this movie, undoubtedly one of the best patriotic songs ever made. Aaee Abke Saal Diwali (Lata) narrates the painful Diwali of that year in which there were no lights in the homes of the soldiers on the front. Zara Si Aahat Hoti Hai To Dil Sochta Hai (Lata) and Masti Mein Chhed Ke Tarana Koi Dil Ka (Rafi) are another beautiful songs. A song – Khelo Na Mere Dil Se O Saajna (Lata) is an emotional song which is available in the album only because it was removed from the movie. Finally, Main Yeh Sochkar Uske Dar Se Utha Tha is a unique song of Rafi with minimal instrumental effect but the lyrics of this small song are such that they can bring tears to the eyes of any sincere lover.

With another Independence Day around and the threats for the country and the countrymen increasing day-by-day from different sides, I recall this classic movie which is not only a memorable experience to watch but also something to feel and preserve in one’s heart forever.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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