In 2018, when JP Dutta released Paltan, a re-telling of the 1967 Indo-China military clash along the Sikkim border, the film was deemed irrelevant. At the time, the neighbouring country was a strong market for Hindi films, and Indian actors — including Sonu Sood who featured in Paltan — were doing a string of Chinese movies. Cut to 2020: the two countries are engaged in a military standoff in Ladakh’s Galwan valley.
The filmmaker says that the cross-border tension was simmering for a long time. “It is ironic that the audience could not [relate] to the film. It is because we have conventionally believed that Pakistan is our primary enemy. We have never perceived China as an enemy so far, but in reality, it was always a threat. When I read about the 1967 skirmishes between Indian and China, it caught my attention. I knew it was a story that needed to be told. Not many know that five years after 1962, the Indian army inflicted a heavy toll on the Chinese in a limited confrontation in Sikkim. We are strong enough to fight back any invasion from China,” emphasises Dutta.
Incidentally, his film Refugee (2000) — that marked the debut of Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor Khan — clocked 20 years yesterday. “Their successful careers give me immense pride,” beams the filmmaker.