The title of the movie is based on a domesticated word ‘Pippa’ used to describe an empty ghee (metal) container that could float. It is symbolically used for the PT-76 amphibious tank that could also float. ‘Pippa’ is a biographical war film based on the life of Captain Balram Singh Mehta of India’s 45 Cavalry regiment who, along with his siblings, fought on the eastern front during the Indo-Pak War of 1971. An adaptation of real life events that happened during the Battle of Garibpur in 1971. Pippa spells a break from the hateful and hysterical clunkers routinely dumped on screen.
The narrative takes a very relaxed start and introduces the pivotal characters. The drama begins with a joint Indo-Russia military training exercise in 1971. Balram Singh Mehta aka Balli (Ishaan Khatter) takes a PT-76 amphibious tank into the deep end of a river ignoring his commander’s orders only to be pulled up for disobedience and left doing paper work in the army headquarters! Balli is now desperate to join back his unit.
Luckily for Balli, a situation arises and his timely engineering skill helps sort an issue with the tank. Balli gets reinstated in his regiment – the 45th Cavalry, already deployed in the East.
On the other hand, Balli’s elder brother Ram (Priyanshu Painyuli), (a decorated soldier who served in the 1965 conflict) who is sent in to assist the Mukti Bahini (Mukti Bahini aka the Bangladesh Forces, was the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians during the Bangladesh Liberation War) in their armed uprising, is taken captive by the enemy.
Balli’s sister Radha (Mrunal Thakur), who is a university student gets inducted by the fledgling intelligence services for her cryptography skills.
At Garibpur, a strategic hamlet they are meant to hold, the unit comes under retaliatory fire from Pakistani troops, with a squadron of them riding in on superior American-made M24 Chaffee tanks. The rest of the action & drama is about how Captain Balram Singh Mehta takes the command and with the help ‘Pippa’ – the PT-76 amphibious tank – becomes instrumental in the transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh in 1971.
The action is captured with decent production values, but ample scope for improvement. However, since it is a small screen narrative, the effectiveness may not be marred. Not to forget an action sequence when Pakistan attacks and Balli and his unit dashes to take their positions. It is a very well directed and executed sequence with the actors running naturally fast enough required in the situation.
Ishaan Khatter playing the lead in a war film is closer to Vicky Kaushal starrer super hit ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ (2019) but Ishaan’s soft and amiable voice lets him down when needed the most. Ishaan Khatter shows some dancing capabilities in the ‘Main Parwaana’ song picturised and choreographed to match the period and occasion.
Priyanshu Painyuli slips into the skin as Ram convincingly like any of his previous works. However, Mrunal Thakur as Radha does not get enough scope to showcase her acting capabilities but delivers a decent performance.
Like Raja Krishna Menon’s ‘Airlift’ (2016), Pippa looks ambitiously conceived celebration of Indian virtue on foreign soil. Since it is on OTT, watching it once could atleast enlighten us of how India proved instrumental in Bangladesh’s freedom.
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, Soni Razdan, Inaamulhaq, Suryansh Patel, Anuj Singh Duhan, Kamal Sadanah, Chandrachoor Rai, Soham Majumdar, Leysan Karimova, Neeraj Purohit
Streaming on: Prime Video
Duration: 2 hrs 19 mins