1971 Beyond Borders is typical Major Ravi stuff.
The protagonist is a veteran soldier who is well aware of the meaninglessness of war but spares no chance to glorify the fight for one's homeland. He has a loving family back in the lush, green Kerala which is in other words the setting for some family drama, some rustic heroics and a song.
Miles away, in the northern end of the nation awaits him a war front, another set of stock characters and the inevitable moments of action and emotions.
The eighth film by the soldier-turned-director is based on an important event in the history of south Asia -- the 1971 Bangladesh war. And the thread on which it is built would have been material for some brilliant creative expression beyond borders and genres. It tells the story of how two soldiers' fight for their homeland ends up in a strange bonding and admiration for each other.
However, 1971 Beyond Borders steals too much time to reach there and straggles with sequences which keep reminding you of Ravi's earlier outings.
As is seen in some of the recent films by the director, Beyond Borders also try to problematize the very concept of war, though only in rhetoric.
The film begins in the scenic and snowy Georgia where Major Mahadevan (Mohanlal) of Indian army and Major Ajmal Raja (Arunoday Singh) of Pakistan army meet each other as part of a UN peace mission. Mahadevan and Ajmal share a pre-generation bonding as their fathers Major Sahadevan and Major Raja fought each other some 40 years ago. The story of that rare battlefield moments is unrolled in the next reels as Major Sahadevan narrates it to his grandchildren.
1971 Beyond Borders shifts its focus to Sahadevan's village in Kerala for a while in a bid to establish his character and family and tries to offer some 'Mohanlalist' masculine moments of action and playfulness but there again the cliched sequences play the spoilsport.
The film picks up pace once the narrative is based in the war front and sows hopes of some extraordinary action in the dry terrain. However, a barrage of stock characters and situations damn the hopes. Soldiers with a bag full of sorrows back at home, an arrogant intelligence officer who urges the army to surrender, a young Tamil officer with a lady love waiting for him in his village... the list of people Major Sahadevan has to handle along with the war goes on.
Allu Sirish comes as lieutenant Chinmay, an expert Patton tank operator, who turns out to be a pet of Major Sahadevan. What happens to him by the end of the movie remains an everyone's guess if you are not a fresher in case of Major Ravi films.
The baton tank sequences look fresh and original while the minutes-long nocturnal war scene in the end looses clarity in the darkness.
Major Sahadevan's call for the final war is one place where the film connects with the audience's emotions. The war by the end of it turns out to be a fist fight between the hero and the anti-hero and the brevity with which the scene is handled needs to be commended.
Apart from the stock characters and sequences, the celebration of binaries such as the good Indian army versus the bad Pak army, the cruel Pak soldier vs the kind-hearted Pak soldier and the power-hungry politicians vs the patriotic soldiers is also in abundance in the film.
Sujith Vaassudev's camera captures in detail the snowy Georgia and the dusty Indian deserts. The songs don't play much importance while Gopi Sunder's background score often ends up typical and noisy.
In brief, 1971 Beyond Borders is a one-time watch war film, though the essence of which could be compared to a soldier missing in action. The war is over, but where is he?