Available On: Amazon Prime Video
Duration: 5 Episodes/ 30-40 minutes
Story: The Forgotten Army - Azaadi Ke Liye, is based on the true story of soldiers from the Indian National Army (INA), who marched towards the capital, with the war cry 'Challo Dilli', to free their country from the reign of the British. Lead by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose INA was forged out of British defeat in Singapore during WWII, it also showcases the first-ever women infantry regiment anywhere in the world.
Review: The Forgotten Army has the potential to influence and become the new war cry in the current troubled times. The show raises several questions about the idea of the motherland, what freedom means and how keeping freedom alive is a bigger and harder fight. But amid the ideas, we also get a love story, a struggle to portray three cultures appropriately on screen and a jumbled narrative.
At the start, we meet an old and grumpy Captain Sodhi (played by MK Raina) landing in Singapore to meet his sick sister in 1996. But instead of spending time with her, he finds himself reminiscing his own days in Singapore during World War II, in 1940's. He soon warms up to his nephew, Amar who is a photojournalist and wishes to capture the political ongoing crisis in Burma (1996).
Sodhi then tells Amar about his enlistment in the Indian National Army and their attempt to free India from British Raj through military action. We are soon sent back and forth between 1940s to 1996, several times as the story proceeds in 5 episodes. With a complex narrative that wishes to share more than it can take on, we get a script that finds it hard to justify a good amount of run time for each sub-plot.
Written by Kabir Khan, Heeraz Marfatia and Shubhra Marfatia, the series, unfortunately, takes a Bollywood approach. While the period drama itself would have been a solid plotline, we also get a forced love story that spans over decades and tries to adds an unnecessary layer of star crossed lovers. The era inappropriate dialogues in the 1940s and 1996 keeps you from getting involved in the story.
The historic story has indeed been missing from the cinema and I am glad it has been brought to life. We get to see a new aspect of the fight against British Raj, a fight that was away from our motherland and fought on the outside. It's impact on the conditions within the country and how it led to the last blow for the British government.
Kabir Khan also makes a strong effort to share his point of view on Indian society, and the current conditions. Within a dialogue, he warns us, the fight to keep the freedom is harder than the fight that has been already fought. It is our time now, and the fight has been going on since 1996, when Burma was fighting for their freedom and we still are today, around the globe. The series also gives a glimpse of the proud moment when first-ever Rani of Jhansi women's regiment was created.
It is in this part of the show that you can't stop watching. It keeps you hooked, even the love story between Rajan and Rasammah is more interesting and fun to watch. Another aspect of the show that I really enjoyed was, the way Sunny Kaushal's character struggles with the idea of his Motherland. How his motherland is India, separate from the Britishers that rule it now. He is often seen using the British induced learnings only to realise it was there to brainwash him. The downside of his character arc is that we don't actually get to see him go through the emotional change, it just restricted a dialogue most of the time.
The show also had plenty of loopholes, like the Japanese soldier Daichi-san, committing hara-kiri when his orders were to retreat? Sodhi finding missing pieces of his love story 1996? Who is the badly animated bluebird flying to help them decades apart? Why are the soldiers in Burma following a group of kids when the entire city is in trouble? How are they even tracking them?
Tremendous effort has been made to establish the war scenes and to channel the idea of a war that went way beyond our country's bounds. But it remains only to the screen. Shah Rukh Khan appearing in every episode for a war update through a voice-over is cute. Use of archive foot that has been made, adds to the sense of patriotism but the loss remains in the end when the story gets dramatise to appeal the masses.
Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari Wagh, Rohit Chaudhary, Tj Bhanu, R. Badree, Toshiji Takeshima and more leave a strong trace, but the story is mainly carried by Sunny and Rohit. Their chemistry and the little comic relief in the show is fun to watch, Sharvari Wagh on the other hand, is charming in her debut work. Overall, The Forgotten Army leaves an impact with a forgetful script.
Spoiler: With the way, The Forgotten Army has been true and raw about the realities of war, I was hoping they would also add the same for the love story's end. Things would have been much more real, and admirable if Sodhi had returned back home and chose to live his remaining life, like Maya did.