“How’s the Josh” – the dialogue from the Vicky Kaushal-starrer Uri: The Surgical strike – is the current favourite from politicians, to sportsmen, weaving its way into everyday lingo.
But, on this day 22 years ago, came a film which was ‘high on josh’ too, and swept a wave of neo-patriotism. JP Dutta’s war drama Border, released on June 13, 1997, was based on the battle of Longewala during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Starring Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty and Akshaye Khanna in pivotal roles – JP Dutta had referred to diaries and notes of his deceased brother who was an Air Force pilot during the war to recount his story. Border was shot on real locations of the 1971 war, and also involved members of the Indian Army to be part of the shoot.
Sunny Deol reprised the role of Major Kuldeep Singh of the Punjab regiment, who was commended for his leadership in the war. Leading his platoon of 120 soldiers who were pitched against 2500 members of the Pakistani army. However, little known facts about the film – it was initially Sanjay Dutt who was to play the role of Wing Commander Andy Bajwa, but was replaced by Jackie Shroff since Dutt was jailed in the Bombay Blast case around the time.
Akshaye Khanna was not the initial choice for Lt. Dharamvir either – actors Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan had been initially approached for the same.
Border remains one of the best war films on the Indian screens, no jingoistic wave here. But what makes Border special were its human interest stories narrated through its characters.
The Armed Forces and their oath of ‘service before self’ on one hand, as the selfless soldier stands tall; on the other hand is his yearning for the family he has left behind. As a mother yearns for her son to return, there is a wife who has been left on her wedding night, and a family who stands stoic hoping against hope to never have to ever face the inevitable.
Border also drives home the point – in a battle, though one side may win, there are losses at both ends – as conveyed through the song Mere Dushman Mere Bhai.
The highest grossing film of 1997, Border won three national awards and the chart topper from the film Sandese Aate Hain evocatively essays the trials and triumphs of the soldier, who stands alone on the border.