I consider Preity Zinta as one of the most talented heroines of her time. This Lyril girl debuted in Bollywood through Maniratnam directed movie Dil Se .. (1998) and her dimples stole the hearts of millions with her very next movie which is being reviewed by me. It’s Soldier (1998). Three brothers – Abbas Alibhai Burmawala, Mustan Alibhai Burmawala and Hussain Alibhai Burmawala teamed up to make Hollywood style thrillers in Hindi cinema. Hussain undertook the responsibility of editing the movies made by them whereas Abbas and Mustan joined their names as ‘Director Duo’. Their first venture was Khiladi (1992) which made Akshay Kumar a ‘Khiladi’ for life and after the box office success of that murder mystery, the Burmawala brothers never looked back. Their next product – Baazigar (1993) presented a modern anti-hero and contributed to the making of one of the biggest superstars of Hindi cinema – Shah Rukh Khan.
After the box office failure of Daraar (1996) which introduced Arbaaz Khan (the younger brother of Salmaan Khan) in Bollywood as an actor, the director duo took its time in coming up with a fresh product and this time they made up for their previous failure. In fact, quality wise, this product, i.e., Soldier is hitherto their best product because it contains everything that we want to see in a good suspense movie and it never defies logic like certain of their later ventures. Plus they have maintained the Indian faith in the moral values in this movie which presents an altogether different picture of the Indian (military) services adored by the us for protecting our frontiers.The story of Soldier starts with the corrupt practice of selling the military weapons to the underworld by certain people in the army and the honest soldier – Captain Vijay Malhotra (Pankaj Dheer) gets killed by the corrupt ones – Prataap Singh (Suresh Oberai), Virender Sinha (Dalip Tahil), Baldev Sinha (Sarat Saxena) etc. The leader of the baddies is a mysterious person – DK (whose identity becomes known in the end only). Virender’s wife – Shaanti (Farida Jalal) gets too much aggrieved by her husband’s evil deed and she leaves him. Virender migrates to Australia with the bad money earned leaving Shaanti behind who now takes care of the widow of Vijay Malhotra – Geeta (Raakhee) who has lost her mental balance following her husband’s killing and tainting of his name for arms smuggling thereafter.Years pass. And now a mysterious person Vicky (Bobby Deol) comes into picture. He goes after the baddies one-by-one and in between comes across Prataap Singh’s daughter – Preeti (Preity Zinta) also. Love blossoms between them on one hand whereas on the other, some mysterious and deceptive incidents start taking place with the villains who are rich businessmen now. Vicky is tricky and he makes Virender and his younger brother – Baldev believe that he is Virender’s son. But the subsequent events tell that it couldn’t be. Then who’s Vicky ? And who is DK, the ringleader of the baddies ? Everything gets clarified in the climax only.
The USP of Soldier is its gripping script and taut direction which does not allow the audience to pause and think anywhere during the movie. The fast paced narrative keeps the spectators glued to the screen until the complete mystery gets unravelled. Starting on the routine idealistic note of a tussle between a good man and some bad men, the movie soon picks up speed as the narrative leaps ahead by many years and the real thrill begins. Then there is no looking back either for the filmmakers or for the viewer. Despite the relief moments provided through comedy (by Johnny Lever) and romance (through lovely Preity and melodious songs), the narrative moves fast towards the ultimate destination with several jerks kept in store by the director duo for the spectator. The twists and turns surprise him and amuse him as well.Personally I admire Abbas Mustan for picking up this plot itself in the first place. In our country, the philosophies of ‘Holier than thou’ and ‘Pot calling the kettle black’ prevail like anything. Every agency or institution is just too much interested in blaming the other one but none is genuinely interested in introspection. Let others improve, why should we ? And that’s the biggest problem of corruption-ridden India. Military services are respected a lot and the brave soldiers who put their own lives at stake to protect the nation from any external threat are no less than God for the commonfolk of India. But ! There is no dearth of corruption in the armed forces. Not only the corrupt politicians get kickbacks in major arms-related deals but this canker has hit the military people themselves also. Abbas Mustan have done the rightest thing by making it as the beginning point of this suspense thriller. Through the idealistic character of Shaanti, they have highlighted that the true patriots keep the nation and the ideals of life above even the closest of relationships.Besides, the movie is very high on the entertainment scale. In addition to the spellbinding suspense; through the track of Johnny Lever and the characters of Baldev and his son (Jeetu Verma), the directors have presented healthy and clean comedy (unlike the vulgar comedy of Anil Kapoor and his female assistants in their Race franchise). There are laughs aplenty for the audience in this movie. The romantic track of Bobby and Preity has been given ample footage and this young pair amuses as well as tickles the romantic spots in the young hearts through its interactions.Like all Abbas Mustan movies, Soldier also maintains a high production value and quite in line with their habit, the directors have filmed certain quality scenes of the movie on a cruise and also under the sea. Technically the movie is superb and all the action and thrill sequences have been well executed. Editing is sharp and though the movie spans for more than two hours and forty minutes, this length is nowhere felt because of the non-stop entertainment coming from the screen.Anu Malik has prepared admirable songs with the help of Sameer’s lyrics. The best song is Tera Rang Balle Balle which alongwith the title track (Soldier Soldier) was a chartbuster. Other songs viz. Mere Dil Jigar Se Guzri Hai, Mere Khwaabon Mein Jo Aaye, Mehfil Mein Baar Baar Unn Pe Nazar Gayi, Hum To Dil Chaahen Tumhara etc. are also ear-soothing ones.This male-oriented movie belongs to Bobby Deol and it’s a showcase of his talent. He has utilized this opportunity optimally to demonstrate his all-round capabilities including his comic timing. Preity Zinta, true to her name, looks very pretty and she has performed well also. The complete supporting cast including the veterans like Raakhee and Farida Jalal have done complete justice to the assigned roles.
I had watched this movie in the Swapnalok cinema of Udaipur (Rajasthan) with my wife and my little daughter who got so amused by the song Soldier Soldier that she kept on singing it (the initial lines only) for several months after watching the movie. This blockbuster movie established Preity Zinta firmly in Bollywood and thereafter she never looked back. I wholeheartedly recommend this admirable suspense thriller to the movie buffs of all categories.
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