August 10, 2022
The Forgotten Army review: Kabir Khan’s Amazon Prime Video miniseries is doomed to be Bollywood

With The Forgotten Army – the new five-part Amazon Prime Video miniseries that follows the Subhas Chandra Bose-led Indian National Army – producer and director Kabir Khan (Bajrangi Bhaijaan) wants to shed light on what he thinks is an unexplored chapter in our history. This isn’t the first time he’s tackling the story, directing a six-part eponymous do-series in 1999 that’s aged poorly. Khan has been trying to revisit the subject ever since, and two decades later his dream has finally come true. And with decades of experience and the financial might of Amazon behind it, The Forgotten Army promises to take a grand look at the INA, from their valiant efforts to the horrors they faced. Like an expansion to Southeast Asia for the awesome HBO miniseries the Pacific,

Unfortunately, Khan in his Bollywood ways is anything but remotely close to an honest, grounded and vivid account of the INA’s Burma campaign, like The Pacific did for the US Marines Pacific Theater. The Forgotten Army – written by Khan with the husband-wife duo Hiraj Marfatia (azani) and Shubhra Swaroop (vizier) – driven by the need to bring out your protagonist as a hero, no matter how disjointed. But the more serious error is the relentless reliance on a background song, which is sent to stir things up whenever an Amazon series lacks enthusiasm. (Its combination with slow-moving characters is even worse.) The song is used so often that we feel like we have to tune out The Forgotten Army every time it’s played .

To make matters even more harrowing, Khan and Co also fall prey to Bollywood’s love for grandeur. At various points during The Forgotten Army – sometimes laughing in the middle of a fight – the good guys would launch into a mini-monologue to talk about their heartbreaking, righteous and powerful backstories, value systems, and abilities. . This is the worst kind of message in filmmaking. Don’t turn your characters into loudspeakers and don’t lecture to the audience. I don’t enjoy talking to anyone. People can think for themselves and should be treated as such, not like a dumb flock of sheep. Just let us take a look at what happened – remember the old filmmaking adage: show, don’t tell – and trust the audience to guess the rest on their own.

Kabir Khan: ‘Secularism is in danger in our country’

The Forgotten Army is not a simple retelling. Split into two time periods, the World War II-era and the mid-90s – which he switches to, using a mix of (poor) CGI, and occasionally archival footage – it stars Captain Sodhi (Sunny Kaushal). Follows who reluctantly joined the INA. British-controlled Singapore fell down to the Japanese in 1942. It traces his travels to Burma with budding photojournalist Maya (Sharvari Wagh), who becomes his love interest. Meanwhile in Singapore in 1996, an elderly Sodhi (MK Raina) visits his extended family, where he meets another budding photojournalist in his nephew Amar (Karanvir Malhotra). Accompanied by Amar, who seeks to document the student protests in now-Myanmar, Sodhi returns to the country after 50 years.

Naturally, the Amazon chain spends much of its time in the past period. The INA, allied with the Imperial Japanese Army, participated in several major battles, including Battle of Imphal And Kohimaoften called Stalingrad of the East, referring to the biggest battle of World War II. But apart from the Battle of Singapore, The Forgotten Army pays little attention to depicting the various events, even though it wants us to know about the INA. Instead we have the fourth wall-breaking moments disguised as dialogue – “India will one day remember our sacrifice,” Sodhi says – designed to value itself. You shouldn’t stress your relevance by letting the audience know why it matters. If people are watching, most of them already care.

As part of its self-critical stance, The Forgotten Army makes a big deal out of having an all-female combat unit called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. (Maya is part of it.) For what it’s worth, talking about discrimination on the basis of gender is valuable when it comes to the Indian military, at a time of nearly eight decades when India’s newly appointed chief of defense was still believe that Women are not suitable for combat roles, But The Forgotten Army shot itself in the foot, sadly. It is the first to claim that women have never been trained and sent to war by any country before. Fact-Checking: Both Russia And Spain [PDF] Before INA. However, the big fault of the Amazon series is that it undermines its point of view by never actually showing Maya or any other women in combat.

Kabir Khan on The Forgotten Army: ‘I do not subscribe to the British view’

Forgotten Army Sharvari The Forgotten Army

Sharvari Wagh as Maya in The Forgotten Army
Photo Credit: Amazon India

The Forgotten Army is also weakened by weak, inconsistent, and unsophisticated filmmaking across the board. Primarily, the show suffers from tonal inconsistencies, as it switches between melancholy, festivities, sadism, romance, thriller, situational comedy, and an honest play on desire, with jarring results and little flow to the narrative. it happens. Speaking of bad writing, it enters troubled territory with gender politics and patriarchy. On one occasion, a sexist male trainee officer is summoned by a woman, who is later praised for overcoming his prejudice as the woman does not rebuke his romantic advances. Hello, it is not a woman’s job to fix a man. Elsewhere, Sodhi, who is taught a feminist lesson by Maya, is only later applauded for publicly echoing her words. Can we please stop celebrating men for doing the bare minimum?

Additionally, the characters make silly decisions for the sake of the plot, or their dialogue is more targeted at the audience. (Speaking of poor performances, Shah Rukh Khan is briefly employed as the narrator, but that’s completely unnecessary as it reminds you of the previous episode to remind you what’s going on.) Not always solid, some scenes lack either focus or proper composition. To communicate what they are trying to achieve. Elsewhere, Khan turns to over-the-top mode to convey a character’s heightened emotions. There is no need to play everything to such an extent. Realism is also an issue with many randomly executed and filmed battle scenes whose sole purpose seems to be to showcase the bravery of the INA. (Thankfully, the action is avoided by the general poor quality of the CGI as it largely seems practically shot.)

This can be directly linked to The Forgotten Army’s claim that only Indians were smart. Initially, as the British were preparing for a Japanese attack on Singapore from the south-east, Sodhi warned them of danger from the north. But the British shortened them. Hopefully the Japanese will do what Sodhi predicted. Nevertheless, the Indians, who were then working for the British, kept the Japanese away in large numbers, only to be fooled by the British to sign an armistice. Later, with the INA’s advance into Burma, the Japanese stopped the attack as per their strategy. Then, it is Sodhi who warns them of the danger of an impending monsoon. As expected, the Japanese do not listen and pay the price. In order to give the moral upper hand to the Indians, the forgotten army demonizes others, be it the British or the Japanese.

The Forgotten Army Battle of Singapore The Forgotten Army

British War Room during the Battle of Singapore in The Forgotten Army
Photo Credit: Amazon India

And there’s no need to worry about it. Colonialism by its very nature, including the British variety, is villainous in nature. But The Forgotten Army doesn’t really know how to escalate the conversation. In one scene, Sodhi wonders whether Indians were blind or foolish in considering Britain as their nation, given their former allegiance? This is a reductive argument. If he was really interested in looking inward rather than outside, Khan & Co might have done well to address Bose’s values. The INA continues to recite his famous words, but his presence is so minimal that The Forgotten Army feels a bit whitewashed, so Bose is given Held socialist authoritarian ideas and Work with the fascists. This would also have allowed him to talk about how the INA is doing. Used By axis powers to your advantage.

Where The Forgotten Army does a little better, it bears terrifying parallels with what is happening in today’s India. As the INA reaches the Indian mainland, it goes up against fellow countrymen, fighting Indians fighting for an independent India. Later in the INA’s trials of the Red Fort, a British Indian officer defames the prisoners as traitors for aligning with the Japanese. Sadly, this approach of the INA remained with the governments even after independence. refute [page 132] Freedom fighters pension to them. And then there are Burmese students who are campaigning for democracy. The similarities are inherently unappealing, but they are relevant and give a presentation feel. If The Forgotten Army was being written in 2020, it would have been surprising if Khan expanded on these topics.

But that doesn’t save a show that doesn’t have control over the fundamentals. Even with these above similarities, The Forgotten Army sums them up with an over the nose dialogue by the elderly Sodhi: “The struggle for freedom was ours. The struggle to maintain that freedom is yours.” It shouldn’t be spelled out, it’s the job of the images to convey it. Khan feels INA deserves better treatment. Well, they deserve a better series too .

The Forgotten Army is now available on Amazon Prime Video worldwide.

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