Mumbai, It is so difficult to spot a naval uniform in a Bollywood film that one could easily give up hope of seeing the men in white on the big screen. In many ways, the naval uniform and its depiction reflected changing societies better than other military attire, popping up in cabaret songs in 1950s films as well as denoting a coastal town and therefore, by inference, the presence of foreign sailors passing through.
But an even rarer phenomenon is an Indian film that draws in the country’s rich history of naval warfare. Indian ships have made their presence felt since the time of the Cholas in the South and Maratha Admiral Kanohji Angre’s reign during the 17th and 18th centuries. But even the post-independence exploits of the Indian navy rarely found a mention in cinematic celebrations of military exploits. Instead, the few films that did show the men in white were dismissive of their presence.
And yet, the Indian Navy played a key role in at least four major military operations after 1947. Each operation would have done very well on the screen. These are real stories, dramatic and vigorous and coming at key points in military history.
For instance, the operation to liberate Goa in 1961 saw the Indian navy taken on the Portuguese. In 1971, missile boats carried out a historic assault on Karachi. By 1987, the Indian Navy was steaming into Maldives as part of Operation Cactus, a successful bid to remove mercenaries from Maldives who had overthrown the regime of President Abdul Gayoom. In 1988, the Navy was deeply involved in Operation Pawan during India’s disastrous operation in Sri Lanka. But it also saw the Navy play a sterling role as it deployed its first Special Forces, then called the Indian Marine Special Forces and later rechristened Marine Commandos or MARCOS. The actions of the Naval Special Forces won it the Mahavir Chakra, the second-highest military gallantry award in war.
One upcoming movie revisits the sinking of the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi in 1971. The Ghazi Attack, a Telugu-Hindi bilingual production, has been directed by Sankalp and stars Kay Kay Menon, Rana Dagubatti, Om Puri, Atul Kulkarni and Taapsee Pannu. The movie will be released on February 17.