Pippa is a well-scripted and better-executed war film, minus the frills and fancy associated with usual Bollywood films from the genre. The soldiers, officers, revolutionaires and radicalists, all look and seem real. There’s no heavyweightedness of stardom associated with the actors here and the narrative connects with the viewer right from the start, when the voiceover pulls you in while providing the context for what is to come.
Pippa paints a picture of battlefield valour that shines and sparkles against the backdrop of war, patriotism, nationalism and the fight against injustice. This is not just a story of men who fight for their land and the courage they display, but also that of their personal lives. Produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP and Siddharth Roy Kapur’s Roy Kapur Films, Pippa places the ‘crusader,’ the ‘fighter,’ ‘the soldier’ at the centre of the plot as he navigates violence, courage and death with aplomb.
Based on the landmark Battle of Garibpur in November 1971, the 140-minute-long Pippa is about three siblings – two army boys and their sister, who is recruited by India’s spy agency to decipher wartime messages. And in that character of real-life war hero Captain Balli Singh is Ishaan Khattar; this really has to be his come-of-age role.
Inspired by the book ‘The Burning Chaffees’, screenwriters Ravindra Randhawa, Tanmay Mohan and the director have added drama and melodrama in good measure, but that never overshadows the narrative, only supplements it. Son of a martyr and younger brother of 1965 war hero Ram Mehta, Balli works with his commander, Major Daljit Singh Narag (Chandrachoor Rai) and the dynamics and equation between the two is real, rugged and raw.
He is ably supported by Mrunal Thakur, as his code-breaker sister and Priyanshu Painyuli. The name Pippa refers to the 45 Cavalry’s PT-76 battle tank.
The story is set in a time when India faces pressure from the influx of refugees as a result of Pakistan’s ruthless Operation Searchlight. The Indian war room is made up of the then Prime Minister, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and a spy chief. All in all, Pippa is a good watch and a breath of fresh air in this genre.
Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, Soni Razdan
Director: Raja Krishna Menon