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Bollywood's <i>Top Gun</i>

Friday, October 13, 2006
New Delhi (UNI): After Shashi Kapoor's Vijeta and Agni Pankh brought alive on silver screen lives of India's 'sky sentinels', work is slated to begin soon on another film on the lives of the Indian Air Force personnel. Unlike Vijeyta and Agni Pankh, which were realistic films dealing with the ups and downs and day-to-day problems in lives of the IAF personnel, the new film, being made by the IAF in collaboration with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) will be 'thriller', a venture on the lines of the Hollywood film Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGellis.

So unlike in Vijeta and Agni Pankh, where effort was to focus on giving a realistic touch to lives of IAF personnel, the new film, being made to coincide with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the IAF, is an effort to glamourise life in the Force like Top Gun did. Released in the US in the 90s, Top Gun, which dealt with lives of pilots, glamourised the lives of the 'sky sentinels' Though the cast of the 'yet unnamed' film was still in the process of being finalised, the sources said efforts were being made to rope in stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Sushmita Sen.

He nearly two-hour-long movie was expected to have a worldwide premiere sometime next year, they said. At present, the IAF is actively working to raise funds for the project that is estimated to cost Rs five to six crore. Sources say given the fact that the focus of Bollywood films has largely been on 'gamourising' life in the Army, IAF felt there was a need for a film that would seek to achieve the same objective for life led by the sky warriors.

Though in the past films like 'Aradhana', 'Sangam', 'Hindustan Ki Kasam', 'Silsila', 'Vijeta'', 'Agni Pankh' and, more recently, 'Rang De basanti' have dealt with life of the the Air Force personnel, the portrayals in a majority of these films has been only as a backdrop to emotional dramas. The first full-fledged movie on lives of IAF personnel was 'Vijeta' in 1985. Produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Goving Nihalani, 'Vijeta' portrayed the life of a fighter pilot, Angad Singh, played by Kunal Kapoor and also starred Shashi Kapoor himself with Rekha. The film, primarily shot in AFA Dundigal, had fantastic footage of HJT-16 Kiran trainers and MiG-21s. The film evoked a lot of praise in film circles for sensitive portrayal of Indian Air Force personnel.

Almost three decade after 'Vijeta', came 'Agni Pankh', which dealt with the real-life story of Indian Air Force personnel posted in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. A story of three men who work for the Indian Air Force - dare devil fighter pilots Siddharth, Sameer and Vishal - 'Agni Pankh', directed by Sanjeev Puri, featured Jimmy Shergill, Sameer Dharmadhikari and Rahul Dev as the three IAF personnel.'Agnipankh' was perhaps the only film in recent times which focused entirely on the youngest service of the defence forces -- the Indian Air Force (IAF) and its pilots. Sources in the IAF feel that though 'Agnipankh' was an attempt at making viewers aware of the life and challenges of those guarding the skies, it fell short in faithfully depicting the life of the IAF officers.

Among other films, Raj Kapoor's 'Sangam' included some battle scenes involving the 'Men in Blue', in the Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila starrer 'Aradhana', the Air Force formed the backdrop to the trials and travails of the female protagonist. Chetan Anand's 1973 hit movie 'Hindustan Ki Kasam', shot immediately after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, had the late Raj Kumar playing a Mig-21 pilot, the late Vijay Anand a Gnat Pilot, the late Balraj Sahni as an Air Chief and the late Amrish Puri a Pakistani Pilot. The film had plenty of dog-fights and bombings featuring Sukhoi-7s, MiG-21's, Sabres and Gnats.

Another film with IAF as a backdrop angle was Yash chopra's 'Silsila'. Shot in 1981, the film featured IAF aircraft like Gnats and Mig-21s. The setting was the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The aircraft shots were filmed at the Srinagar and Poona airbases with Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha, Sanjeev Kumar and Shashi Kapoor, who played a Mig-21 pilot. The recently Oscar-nominated flick, 'Rang De Basanti', starring Amir Khan had Madhvan playing an IAF personnel, who died in an accident due to the alleged failure of Mig-21.

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