Series Review: The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye

By Samir Shukla

Director Kabir khan, ( Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ek Tha Tiger) has deftly woven true historical events into a five-part limited series called The Forgotten Army - Azaadi Ke Liye, starring Sunny Kaushal and Sharvari alongside Rohit Choudhary, Karanvir Malhotra, M. K. Raina, R. Badree, TJ Bhanu, and Shruti Seth.

The Indian National Army (INA) was organized out of England's defeat in Singapore at the hands of the Japanese army during WWII. The legendary and controversial leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose forged this army for his ultimate goal, India's independence. In the battle at Singapore, after the British soldiers retreated, the remaining thousands of Indian soldiers serving under the British were inspired by Bose to join the Indian National Army. The Japanese army had captured the Indians along with the British soldiers. The Japanese, seeking victory over the British, made an alliance with Bose and the INA was created. Bose's alliances with Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are a controversial aspect of his legacy, but he is revered in India for his defiant patriotism and fight for independence, which for him was to be achieved by any means.

This true story is brought to life in the film with stirring visual effects and battles, along with showcasing the dedication as well as doubts of the soldiers. The INA fights and marches all the way to India's border near Burma (Myanmar) where it is finally subdued by the British and eventual Japanese retreat. The INA was also unique in that it had the first ever women infantry regiment. The fighters of INA fought against impossible odds but never forgot their chant “Challo Dilli" (Let's go to Delhi), to free their country from British colonialism.

Khan's gripping series tells this tale of INA's travails fighting with their last patriotic breaths against the British army and their struggle to free India. Most of the survivors of this army and their stories have gotten lost to history; The Forgotten Army is an apt title that retells their story. The series also showcases the love story between two soldiers - the protagonists Sodhi (Kaushal) and Maya (Sharvari), tapping into poignant questions about identity, the idea of a motherland and the human costs of fighting for freedom and independence. Some of the INA fighters were Indians living in Singapore and had never been to India, but were inspired by Bose to join the patriotic fight.

Khan said of the film, “Being the first script I've ever written, The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye is a project I am very passionate about. The journey of these soldiers of the INA is a story that needs to be told and it has taken several years of extensive research to gather fragmented memories of these incredibly brave men and women who fought so selflessly for India's independence. This project has been a labor of love – from custom creating hundreds of bicycles from the 1940s, to recreating the Singapore of that era, to finding just the right cast to give life to these characters, our only effort has been to truly represent the journey of these fiercely brave men and women to whom we owe our freedom."

I don't quite get why this needed to be a series of short episodes. It would have made a fine two and a half hour movie. Veteran composer Pritam composed the music for the film along with the title song “Azaadi Ke Liye."

The Forgotten Army - Azaadi Ke Liye is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Samir Shukla is Editor of Saathee. Reach him at Samir@Saathee.com.