One of Independent India's biggest and most monumental milestones, the hard-fought victory in the Kargil War, is celebrated each year on July 26 as the 'Kargil Vijay Diwas'.
It is an occasion for us to look back at the films inspired by the war, the most recent one being the hit 2021 movie 'Shershaah', starring Sidharth Malhotra, playing the martyred war hero, Captain Vikram Batra, and Kiara Advani.
Each of these movies adopted a different approach, some took a more realistic and grounded approach, other stuck to the traditional cinematic route, but each mixed together a bunch of elements, from emotions to dance, drama, romance, war action, and, above all, patriotism and national pride.
'Shershaah', a pandemic-era multiple award-winning biographical film on Amazon Prime Video, tells the story of Captain Vikram Batra from the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, who was given the codename Shershaah by his superiors for his great courage on the battlefield, capturing critical strategic peaks such as Point 4875 and 5140.
Captain Batra died in action against enemy units in that battle. He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his bravery and is considered one of the best soldiers of the Indian Army.
'Lakshya' (2004; Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta) is considered to be one of Bollywood's greatest Kargil War-inspired films and a cult classic, but at the time of its release it did not fare very well at the box office.
The movie's narrative revolves around the tale of a fictional character, played by Hrithik, who comes from a rich family with no purpose in life. He half-heartedly joins the Army and later finds his purpose or 'lakshya' when he decides to recapture one of the most crucial peaks of this war, which had fallen into Pakistani hands, leading to a blockade of Indian Army convoys, delays in supply of ammunition, weaponry, food, and even logistical information.
'Tango Charlie', while not exclusively based on the war, is focused on it in a significant part of it. It tells cinematically the lesser-known part that the Border Security Force (BSF) played in the war, guarding the borders against terrorists and infiltration by Pakistani soldiers into Kashmir.
The 2005 film, despite being led by an all-star cast of Ajay Devgan, Bobby Deol, Suniel Shetty and Sanjay Dutt, tanked at the box office, perhaps because it mixed up too many events, from the Kargil War to the Bodo militancy in Assam.
'LOC Kargil', on the other hand, was laser-focused on the war, touching upon several points in the war, ranging from the fight to recapture Tiger Hill and other strategic peaks while also guarding strategically important Points 4835 and 5714 in the Dras sector of Ladakh.
The 2003 movie featuring Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Suniel Shetty and Rani Mukerji, and based on real incidents, also tells us about the roles of the various units of the Indian Army played in the role, such as the Rajputana Rifles, Gorkha Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, Jat Regiment and Sikh Regiment. Again, it barely recovered its cost at the box office.
'Kurukshetra', helmed by a retired Indian Army officer, Major Ravi, is a 2008 Malayalam movie where Mohanlal reprises his role as Colonel Mahadevan, previously seen in 'Keerthi Chakra' in 2006.
The film is all about the Battle of Tololing, the peak that overlooks the Srinagar-Leh Highway, where Indian troops from the 2nd Rajputana Rifles fought a numerically far superior force of the Pakistan Army's Northern Light Infantry unit as well as mercenaries and terrorists, and earned a massive victory killing more than 125 Pakistani troops in combat.
'Kaatru Veliyidai' (2017) is a Tamil romance-war drama directed by Mani Ratnam and starring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari, that tells the story of the fighter pilot Varun as he recalls his romance with Leela while being held prisoner in Pakistan during the Kargil War. The movie was a big success in the South, though it was more about love than war.
'Gunjan Saxena', the 2020 Netflix film starring Jahnvi Kapoor, Angad Bedi and Pankaj Tripathi, tells the story of an ambitious Indian Air Force pilot and the difficulties she faced due to her age and because she was a woman in a man's world.
Gunjan Saxena's role in the IAF was pivotal as she became a helicopter pilot and provided transport and logistical support in the war, for which she was highly respected, but the film hardly got the kind of traction that 'Shershaah' did.
'Sainika' is a 2002 Kannada romance drama set against the backdrop of the Kargil War, minus the action, and it tells the story of an Indian Army Subedar who, after bravely fighting terrorists in Kashmir, has to choose between going to the war front or retire and take up farming in his village, as suggested by the father of the woman he loves.
'Maratha Battalion' is a Marathi film that tells the story of a young man who enlists in the Indian Army and goes off to the Kargil War to avenge his father's death at the hands of terrorists and protect his motherland. The story is about the bravery of the Maratha Light Infantry, which fought the Battle of Tololing alongside the Rajputana Rifles, Jat Regiment and the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, combining to capture the vital Points 5140 and 4700.
But no movie, not matter how well-made it is, can ever truly do justice to the collective legacy of the heroes of the war. The Kargil War is regarded as one of the greatest victories in the history of the Indian Army, which also established its ability to successfully execute a war in the mountains.