And what about the men guarding our borders? In our blood-thirsty times, where anybody who dares to question the government’s policies is reminded of the valour and sacrifices of the armed forces, comes a movie that dares to provide a view from the trenches.
Writer and director Jugal Raja’s Bunker is set in the Poonch sector along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. A military bunker is severely damaged during a ceasefire violation, and Lieutenant Vikram Singh (Abhijeet Singh) is the only survivor. His eyes have been injured and his legs wounded, which means that he can just about prop himself up. Vikram radios for help and as he waits to be evacuated, he remembers the events leading up to the attack and thinks of his news anchor wife Swara (Arindita Kalita) and four-year-old daughter Gudiya.
To keep his spirits up, Vikram chats with his slain comrades and keeps calling for reinforcements, which are unable to reach him on time because of the incessant shelling. Meanwhile, the battle continues to rage (represented by rat-a-tat fire and amplified by background music).
Except for the flashbacks, Bunker is set entirely in the space that was Vikram’s position and has now become his death chamber. The camera is sometimes placed centimetres away from Vikram’s blood-splattered face to bring the horror up close. At other times, Vikram’s forced immobility becomes a metaphor for the situation in which soldiers like him find themselves. Recruits in wars that they didn’t always sign up for and bound to perform their duty, all they can do is fire away blindly and hope they might emerge alive.
Some sequences play out for far too long. The movie might have worked better at an even crisper duration than the 98 minutes it runs. Abhijeet Singh puts up a spirited performance as yet another statistic in the unending war of attrition between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. “The sorrow of losing loved ones is greater than victory or defeat in war,” Vijay Raaz’s voiceover notes. This modest contribution to the Indian war movie genre has the temerity to suggest that while there is no shortage of gallantry on the Indo-Pak border, there is a heavy price to be paid for war-mongering. Peaceniks are sometimes found in the strangest of places.