Originally slated to release on 14th of August, the film has been now pushed to the 16th of December, the day when we celebrate Vijay Diwas.
Â© BCCL; The Indian Army, observing Vijay Diwas
The film follows the incidents that took place at the Bhuj Air Force Station and follows the story of Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik. Although he may be portrayed as the hero of the film, (because after all, Bollywood) in real life, as courageous as Sq Lr Karnik was, the women of Bhuj were the actual heroes, who played a vital role in our victory over Pakistan.
Â© Instagram/ajaydevgn; A young Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik, 1971
So, what actually happened in Bhuj, in 1971, that inspired a big-budget Bollywood film? Why is it often called, the Pearl Harbour moment of India? And why are the women, and Vijay Karnik, who retired as a wing commander, indeed heroes in real life?
Â© BCCL; Recent photograph of Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik
These 5 facts answer all such questions:
Â© CIA; Representational Image: Pakistan Air Forceâs Sabres
In the winter of 1971, the Bhuj Air Force Station was raided a total of 35 times in 14 days. That means over twice a day, sometimes, even more. Over 92 high powered explosives and bombs, and 22 rockets were used, in Bhuj alone.
Strategically, Bhuj was important for the Indian Air Force, given itâs proximity to the border with Pakistan. However, it was also very understaffed. At that period of time, because of a number of reasons.2. The Attack That Almost Did It
Â© BCCL; Remnants from the attack
The most devastating attack came on the evening of the 8th of December. A squadron of Sabre jets from Pakistan Air Force, attacked the strip, dropping over 14 napalm bombs.
Unlike other regular missiles and ammunitions used by any air force at that time, napalm bombs were designed to be highly incendiary in nature. They were mainly used in the Vietnam war by the US Armed forces.
Â© WikiCommons; Representational Image: Simulations of Napalm Bombs
That meant that they would not make a massive explosion when they went off. Instead, the bomb would torch the place where it went of, and just incinerate everything. The resulting fire would burn for hours, even if there was a proper and state of the art system to put the fire out. Of course, we didnât have those back then.
Needless to say, the facility was heavily damaged, and the airstrip, obliterated, meaning no aircraft could take off.3. The Role Of Civilians
Â© WikiCommons; File photo of women working on the airstrip
In spite of being a strategically important airfield for the Indian Air Force, the squad posted at Bhuj was short-staffed. Moreover, after the attack, it wasnât possible for the Air Force to send their engineers and construction team to rebuild the airstrip. So, Squadron Leader Vinay Karnik had to turn to a local village, named Madhapur, for help.
300 women came from the village and completely rebuilt the airstrip, enabling the Indian Air Force to launch a counter-attack.4. The Challenges
Rebuilding the airstrip wasnât exactly a piece of cake. It had to be done within 72 hours, and it had to be done right. Air Force Aircrafts need a proper runway if they are to take off and land safely, without any incident. On top of that, the airstrip had to be a long one as well.
Moreover, the Pakistan Air Force was constantly raiding the nearby airfields as well. So, the women had to cover up the portion of the airfield with cow dung, as they made it to hide it from prying eyes.
Adding to their woes was the season. During winters, the temperature in Bhuj would often drop to 5 degrees back then. Imagine doing something so labour intensive in winter clothing, that too if they had access to it.
Â© BCCL; The Indian Air Force built a memorial, honouring the women who built the airstrip
Eventually, the women were able to build the airstrip back, and Squadron Leader Vinay Karnik, along with his 2 officers, and the rest of the crew were able to launch a counter-attack.
Squadron Leader Vinay Karnik and his crew, also successfully saved the aircraft from the raids and the bombings, which proved to be vital for our chances of success.5. The Humility
Â© BCCL; As of 2010 only 50-60 of the women who built the airstrip were alive.
As per a 2010 interview with the Times Of India, one of the 300 women who worked on the airstrip said that after the war was over, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi felicitated them and offered the group a reward of Rs 50,000, which was a lot of money back then. However, the women refused to accept it, saying they did what they did, not for the money but because of their patriotism, and because rebuilding the airstrip was something that needed to be done.
The entire airfield and the airstrip had to be built again, because of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake.
With that being said, from the looks of it, Bhuj: The Pride of India should be one cracker of a film. We just hope the film does not get delayed anymore.