“The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye” Review: Certain Tropes Don’t Favor the Interesting Premise
The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye is a five-episode Amazon Prime Video miniseries that focuses on a controversial chapter in India’s (and by relation, Pakistan’s) independence from the British rule. While there was a lot that could have been explored with the premise, certain writing tropes dragged down the overall narrative.
I was provided free review screeners of The Forgotten Army series. The opinions are my own.
The current miniseries is from the highly successful creator and director Kabir Khan. For those who don’t know, he made a docuseries on the same topic back in 1999. You can tell Khan’s very passionate about the story, and after years, he finally got to retell it on a streaming platform.
The Forgotten Army is about the Indian National Army (or INA) which was led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose during World War II. However, due to the INA working with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, you can see why the controversy exists.
The basis of a very interesting story is definitely there, but certain narrative choices kind of worked against The Forgotten Army.
One of the things I liked was how the story’s split across two timelines. We got travel between Word War II and the 9os as the plot unfolded and parallels were made.
In the past, we have a young Captain Sodhi (Sunny Kaushal) fighting in the British-Indian Army. Once he and his fellow troops are forced to surrender to the Japanese, he decided to join the INA and fight for India’s freedom.
In the late 90s, we have an older Sodhi visiting his extended family. Due to the student protests in Myanmar, Sodhi accompanies his young nephew Amar (Karanvir Malhotra from Netflix’s Selection Day) to the region, returning to the land he fought in decades ago.
I liked the shifts between the timelines. It allowed for a narrative thread that focused on how wars still continue to be fought for freedom and how important it is to stand for the rights you believe in.
Unfortunately, how the two timelines are handled is the only thing that worked in my opinion. The rest of the series, even though you can tell it had its heart in the right place, ended up being full of certain tropes that made me roll my eyes quite a lot.
I have no idea why Khan decided to add a love triangle when it was clear the running time wouldn’t allow for much to be developed. I get that romance is huge in Bollywood, but there is an appropriate time and place for romance to not feel jarring. The Forgotten Army definitely didn’t have either.
For a miniseries that wanted to shine a light on an important piece of history, seeing so much focus being given to a romance made no sense to me.
Also, the romantic subplots kind of took away from the all-women combat unit called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. The promotional content for The Forgotten Army showcased said regiment. It was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this miniseries.
The world of women in South Asia isn’t the best. Even today, numerous women continue to fight for their rights. Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make a lot of sense. The history of South Asia is full of powerful women.
Even if you think that Muslim women (especially in Pakistan) are hindered due to Islam, it still doesn’t make sense. I say this because the history of Islam is full of powerful Muslim women; ranging from businesswomen to fighters, scholars, and leaders.
An interesting fact: while Barbarossa controlled the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Western region was controlled by a Muslim woman pirate named Sayyida al Hurra.
So, in my opinion, it all comes down to how certain societal expectations (which have also misused religious teachings) have oppressed women over numerous years. Thankfully, while slow, things are changing for the better.
That’s why it was impressive to see an all-women regiment being formed to fight against the British rule. But again, certain tropes in this series were big nopes for me.
One of the main women in The Forgotten Army is named Maya. As a character on her own, I liked her. What I didn’t like was her being romantically linked to Sodhi. Once the link was introduced, it felt like Maya was being used to help Sodhi become a better person. She felt like a tool for his character arc instead of her own person.
There’s even a scene where Sodhi used Maya’s words to encourage the rest of the army. The scene made him seem like an amazing man to the rest without him giving Maya any recognition for her ideas. Leave it to certain men to take credit for a woman’s work even if they don’t have any malicious intent behind their actions.
When Maya isn’t with Sodhi, we are told (through the 90s timeline) she continued fighting for freedom and inspired the next generation. So, good for her!
Another woman’s backstory dealt with sexual assault making her join the regiment. Then there’s the entire mess of a man making fun of her during training and how her words and actions helped make him better. Of course, there’s a romantic spark between the two as well. Uff!
How can men become better if women aren’t there to fix them and serve as romantic interests, right?
Also, the use of poor CG was glaringly obvious. What’s unfortunate is that certain CG moments didn’t need to be included at all. The CG blue colored bird, in my opinion, was unnecessary. If the CG isn’t going to work well, why even use it?
I watched this series thinking it would give me a better understanding of where Bose was coming from, wanting help from Nazis and Imperial Japan to secure freedom for his people. Getting to know more about his thinking would have made for a far better story than sitting through all of the forced romantic subplots in The Forgotten Army.
It was as if the creative team didn’t want to take any risks. The narrative could have been made impressively richer by addressing discussions concerning morality and where to draw the line when fighting for a nation’s rights.
Having said all of that, did I enjoy watching The Forgotten Army? Well, even though it might be surprising to some, I did. The likable cast helped a lot with maintaining my interest. The action sequences were also impressively constructed.
The series didn’t shy away from showing gore. The battles have flying limbs and blood. So, keep that in mind.
All in all, if you are interested in seeing a part of history linked to India’s independence from the British rule, you should consider watching this miniseries. With each episode being around 30-minutes, it won’t take up too much of your time.
The Forgotten Army is out now on Amazon Prime Video worldwide.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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