Casts: Ishaan Khatter, Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, Soni Razdan
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Ratings: 2.5 out of 5 stars
“Pippa,” directed by Raja Krishna Menon, marks a significant departure from the usual Bollywood war movies by avoiding common genre tropes. This film, set against the backdrop of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, is grounded in realism, focusing on the human aspects of war rather than grand patriotic displays. Produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP and Siddharth Roy Kapur’s Roy Kapur Films, “Pippa” balances the portrayal of battlefield valor with the personal struggles and doubts of its characters.
The story revolves around the Battle of Garibpur and the lives of three siblings: two army officers and their sister, a student activist turned spy. The film begins with a voiceover from the real-life war hero Captain Balram “Balli” Singh, played by Ishaan Khatter, setting the historical context. Although the start might feel rushed, “Pippa” soon finds its rhythm, engaging the audience with its detailed storytelling.
“Pippa” is adapted from the book “The Burning Chaffees” by a brigadier, and the screenplay by Ravindra Randhawa, Tanmay Mohan, and Menon captures the drama of war without resorting to melodrama. The narrative acknowledges the harsh realities of tyranny and the necessity of combat in certain situations, while also emphasizing the camaraderie among soldiers.
The film portrays Captain Balli, a young, impulsive soldier seeking redemption amid war. His character’s development is central to the film, showcasing the internal and external conflicts faced by soldiers. The film also explores the roles of Balli’s siblings, with Mrunal Thakur playing the sister who becomes a code-breaker and Priyanshu Painyuli as the elder brother and war hero.
Despite its achievements, “Pippa” is not without flaws. A notable misstep is the remix of a Bengali rebel poet’s song by A.R. Rahman, which feels discordant. However, the film excels in maintaining a tone that is far from jingoistic. It captures the essence of the 1971 war, not as an attack on an enemy but as a fight against genocide.
The contributions of women in key technical roles, cinematographer Priya Seth and editor Hemanti Sarkar, lend “Pippa” a unique texture and rhythm, setting it apart from typical military action movies. Their work, combined with Menon’s direction, infuses the film with a sense of realism and contemplation.
Ishaan Khatter delivers a compelling performance as Captain Balli, with strong support from the ensemble cast, including Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, and Soni Razdan. The film successfully avoids sidelining any character, ensuring each has their moment within the narrative.
“Pippa” is a commendable effort in the war film genre, offering a nuanced and heartfelt portrayal of war. It succeeds in striking a balance between depicting the harsh realities of conflict and the human connections that persist amidst it. This film is a testament to the idea that war stories can be told with sensitivity and depth, making it a notable entry in Indian cinema.