A relatively lesser-known but essential story of Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA) that demands the attention of everyone interested in history.
Created and directed by- Kabir Khan
Executive Producers- Kabir Khan and Rajan Kapoor
Starring- M K Raina, Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari Wagh, Shruti Seth, TJ Bhanu, Rohit Chaudhary
Plot of The Forgotten Army
Based on historical events, this Amazon Prime Original series starts with INA veteran Colonel Surinder Sodhi reaching Singapore to see his ailing sister and revisiting his experiences as a British-Indian army man turned INA soldier in south-east Asia during World War-II. The story travels between two time-periods – 1996 and 1942-46. Colonel Sodhi’s grand-nephew Amar – a wannabe photo-journalist – decides to go to Myanmar to document student protest and Colonel Sodhi joins him.
In 1942, the British Indian Army surrendered to the Japanese Army in Singapore and the Indian soldiers were spared as the Japanese wish to support India’s freedom movement. Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army (INA) was organised in Singapore under the command of Mohan Singh, involving soldiers of the British Indian Army and civilians of Indian origins settled in that part of Asia.
Captain Surinder Sodhi along with his friend Arshad also joins the INA. Amidst INA’s fight for freedom, women weren’t left behind. Maya – a photographer and daughter of Tamil immigrant – joins INA when the first women infantry of the World – Rani Jhansi Regiment was formed.
Guided by the famous “Chalo Dilli” battle cry – given by their supreme commander Subhash Chandra Bose – INA started the march from Singapore to Delhi via Myanmar (erstwhile Burma). The path required sacrifices and strong will to overcome the odds. Whether the INA succeeded in its pursuit to raise the Indian flag on Indian soil and liberate its homeland from the oppressive British rule and to what extent, forms the background of the story. Another factor which is highlighted is: What drove Colonel Sodhi to visit present-day Myanmar? The answers lie there in this 5 – part miniseries. The episodes are titled as – “Shonan”, “POW”, “Chalo Dilli”, “Harakiri” and “Maya”.
There is very little literature available in print that throws light on the INA, and this miniseries is an attempt to tell the story of the army that has been forgotten by many. The creator and director Kabir Khan had directed a documentary with identical title two decades ago, wherein the journey of INA was revisited through Azad Hind Expedition in 1995-96.
The expedition involved some of the surviving luminaries of INA like Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, Captain Janaki Thevar and Captain S S Yadava. From their stories, Kabir Khan inspired to write the story of this forgotten army and the project had been ripening in his mind for the past two decades before it gets converted into this miniseries.
Along with his co-writers – Heeraz Marfatia and Shubhra Swarup – Kabir Khan has woven an insightful story after thorough research authentic inputs from the heroes of INA. However, a romantic subplot against the backdrop of war is something that has affected the flow of series.
Except for Mohan Singh and a cameo of Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, none of the luminaries of the INA was shown in series. The lead characters were created by mixing some of the luminaries – Colonel Sodhi was based on Colonel Dhillon but had the traits of General Shahnawaz Khan and Prem Sehgal. Maya was based on Captain Lakshmi Sehgal and Captain Janaki Thevar.
It is tough to understand when the stories of luminaries are so impressive, where is the need to create a fictional character to tell the story. This Bollywoodization of real-life heroes’ stories has done injustice to those luminaries.
Sunny Kaushal as Colonel Sodhi was good in parts and tried to go beyond his limitations as an actor. Debutant Sharvari Wagh was super impressive in her role as Maya. Rohit Chaudhary as Arshad and Tj Bhanu as Rasamma were excellent in their respective limited roles. Good to see veterans like Sushma Seth and Amala in the series. Shruti Seth played the cameo of Captain Lakshmi Sehgal. However, it was M K Raina as old Colonel Sodhi who performed better than everyone else.
Shah Rukh Khan’s voice was not required as the narrator when there was little to say. Kausar Munir had written lyrics which are true to the theme of the series. Singers – Jubin Nautiyal (Ae Dil Bata), Arijit Singh (Ae Watan), Tushar Joshi (Ae Watan – Sad version) are good, and so is the music given by Pritam. However, the music does not leave any lasting impression.
Aseem Mishra has done a decent job as director of photography. Editors – Rameshwar S Bhagat and Peter Alterliesten were excellent in some parts and average in others. Action director Sham Kaushal was commendable for engaging and well-executed action sequences and battle scenes. The scene when the Japanese army attacks on the British Indian army in Singapore in the opening episode is a testimony of the statement.
Movies or series based on forgotten chapters of history should be made to make the new generation aware of different streams of our freedom struggle. Despite having its flaws, “The Forgotten Army” has succeeded in its intention to spread awareness about the glorious fight of the Indian National Army. Therefore, Kabir Khan’s “The Forgotten Army” is recommended as a good binge-watch.