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The war hero whose story of a forgotten tank battle inspired ‘Pippa’

New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) Had Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta not written his book, ‘The Burning Chaffees’, on the urging of his battalion mates, the Battle of Garibpur in the run-up to the 1971 India-Pakistan War, would have been forgotten forever.

But the book inspired Raja Krishna Menon, previously in the news for the Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Airlife’, to make the war film ‘Pippa’ with Ishaan ‘The Suitable Boy’ Khattar playing the war hero (and author of the book), then a 26-year-old who was made a Captain in the thick of the battle after his commanding officer died within three minutes of it.

The film is a compelling retelling of this tank battle, which was fought in present-day Bangladesh, against Pakistani fire power with Lt-General A.A.K. Niazi, who eventually signed the surrender documents for a defeated Pakistan.

The Battle of Garibpur was fought between India and Pakistan for the control of the village of Garibpur, which is now in Bangladesh.

On November 20, 1971, before India and Pakistan formally went to war, troops of the Punjab Regiment’s 14th Battalion with 14 supporting PT-76 Russian-made tanks from the 45 Cavalry moved in to capture the areas around Garibpur in what was then East Pakistani territory.

Interestingly, Ishaan was 26 when he shot for the film, as was the war hero when he fought during the war. This age synchronicity adds a unique layer of authenticity to the film, making it more realistic.

The amphibious tank in the film is called ‘Pippa’, which is a tribute to Punjabi soldiers who, upon seeing the tank for the first time, lovingly likened it to a Pippa, a ghee tin that floats in water. This charming moniker adds character to the tank’s role in the movie.

The PT-76 (Palavushi Tanka in Russian) was designed for amphibious operations and used to cross rivers during the war. These tanks played a significant role in the war.

The PT-76 used in ‘Pippa’, the film, is also not a replica but a genuine tank. Explicitly resurrected for the film, this authentic tank provides a true-to-life touch to the movie’s tank warfare scenes.

The movie, shot in Amritsar, Ahmednagar and interiors of West Bengal, narrates a story of patriotism and heroism.

Produced by RSVP Movies and Roy Kapur Films, with Ronnie Screwvala and Siddharth Roy Kapur serving as producers, it also stars Mrunal Thakur and Priyanshu Painyuli in pivotal roles.

It will be released on November 10 on Prime Video.



Indian Abroad News Desk
Indian Abroad News Desk
Indian Abroad is a news channel and fortnightly newspaper meant for Australia’s Indian community and, besides news, focuses on lifestyle subjects like health, travel, culture, arts, beauty, fashion, entertainment, Bollywood, etc. Our YouTube channel here features daily news bulletins besides infotainment videos on lifestyle subjects.

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