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From Akshay Kumar’s Kesari to JP Dutta’s Paltan, war dramas are gaining ground in Bollywood

It’s rumoured that Aamir Khan is keen to make a Rs1,000-crore movie on the epic Mahabharata — though he has never confirmed it, the speculation shows how war films are firing up the imagination of filmmakers.

Updated: Apr 18, 2018 19:09:49

By Rishabh Suri

Akshay Kumar’s Kesari is based on the Battle of Saragarhi, on which two more films are being made.

War dramas have long been a staple of Hollywood, and in the past couple of years, Indian cinema has upped the ante in this genre — the two Baahubali films by SS Rajamouli, and this year’s Padmaavat by Sanjay Leela Bhansali gave audiences epic war scenes.

Earlier, there were war movies in Hindi on and off — one name that instantly comes to mind is Border (1997) — but now this genre has got a fillip. A host of war dramas have been announced or are in the making, including JP Dutta’s Paltan (based on Indo-China War of 1962); Arjun Kapoor’s Panipat (based on the Third Battle of Panipat, 1761); three films based on the Battle of Saragarhi, including the Akshay Kumar-starrer Kesari; and Manikarnika, on Lakshmi Bai, the warrior queen of Jhansi.

The latest and biggest example is of Aamir Khan’s rumoured project on the epic Mahabharata, in which sources say, he is keen to play Lord Krishna. However, Aamir has never confirmed that he’d make such a film.

Trade expert Komal Nahta feels that the interest in such action-packed films had waned in the past many years. He says, “There was a Bajirao Mastani in 2015, and one before that was Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010). But we had forgotten them for some time, because there was a belief that the multiplex audience doesn’t want too much action. Since such films have done well in the past four-five years, there has been a renewed faith in action, and so, in war dramas.”


Making such films is mentally and physically taxing. The focus has to be on authenticity, feels director JP Dutta, known for helming Border and LOC Kargil (2003). “The one thing that sets Paltan apart from every war drama made in the country is authenticity, right down to the cast. When you see such films with battles, you see actors — and not just the principle cast, but the Army men you see are also juniors and extras. But in our films, right from Border, every person you see on-screen (other than the lead actors) is an actual soldier deployed for us by the government and Ministry of Defence. The soldiers on our sets told the actors how to look authentic,” says Dutta, who is also producing the film.

Nidhi, his daughter and the co-producer, adds, “Dad always makes true stories, so we have the emotions, too, but not dramatising it to the point of being unreal is the real challenge.”


Aamir Khan’s Mahabharata — as per rumours — is said to have a budget of ₹1,000 crore! On whether it’s feasible to make a war drama at this astronomical budget, trade expert Atul Mohan says, “The makers must have made a recovery plan. Earlier, very few would risk their money on such big-budget movies.”

Aamir Khan said a few months ago that ‘it’s his dream’ to make a film on the epic Mahabharata. However, the actor has never confirmed if he would actually make the film. ( PTI )

Nahta says, “Aamir Khan is making Mahabharata, and he’s too intelligent to just blow his money off, or whoever’s money it is. He must have done his market research. Earlier, recovering such a budget would have been difficult, but now we have satellite and digital rights, without which it would be risky. Nothing short of excellence will work, and with Mahabharata, you can’t fool around or do it half-heartedly. Also, Aamir has a huge audience appeal in China.”

Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 19:07:25


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