We know everything about war, don’t we? And how would we not, watching all those larger-than-life action war films that have made us war veterans of sorts. The problem is, and it’s a big one, we know bollocks about warfare, and the movies we watch haven’t helped our cause at all. So it is with a very heavy heart, and a brittle soul that I break to you that Sunny Deol and Sunil Shetty’s heroics shown in the legendary war movie, Border, were absolute horseshit.
Real war is fought a lot differently as a matter of fact, and there is no room for error. Here are some war myths all of us tend to believe in because of the movies.
1. “Ancient battles would always start with a charge, and move on to a melee combat.”
The two armies in battle, stand facing each other awaiting their general’s command to go apeshit on each other while holding the perfect formation. Fast forwarding to close-ups of a bunch of extras moving onto a melee combat, just to focus on the hero cutting open poor extras like a sack of rice. It’ll be about 5-7 minutes of extra-bashing, before the hero spots the villain at a distance, and walks towards in slow-motion. With a constipated look on his face, and blood in his eyes, he shouts his lungs out, ‘Something terribly irrelevant and hilariously stupiiiiiiiiiid!’
It doesn’t work like that. Every thing in battle isn’t 300, or worse still, Jodha Akbar. Let’s get it real, people, these were really bad war strategies. Most who tried fighting like that returned in body-bags. 300 still had some sort of resemblance to the real deal though – their well-armored and disciplined troops formed up into ranks and pushed their way down the field, one step at a time.
Professional troops stayed in those boring, organised formations and specifically avoided just charging into battle. Perhaps that’s why the Macedonians and the Romans managed to win so many battles against the other motivated, but disorganised troops. Eh, boring losers. In all seriousness though, that tightly protected formation is essentially a tank, which would allow armies to roam about the battlefield, literally poking people the wrong way. Almost all successful armies back in the day would abide by a similar strategy against weaker opponents. As for the melee bit, it never happened, unless the warrior had a death wish, or was as brave as Suneil Shetty with a landmine in his hands, ‘Aaaayeehhhhhhh.’
2. “Pompous Englishmen,with powdered wigs, and ridiculous hats, in linear formations, using muskets, turning into the greatest warriors ever!”
Actually, no they didn’t. In fact, they would’ve been brought down to shreds had they tried doing so. Lovers of the movie The Patriot might feel otherwise though. No, they did not stand right in the middle of an open field and musket-blast each other for fun. Sounds like a fun thing to do after an effing tea-party more than anything else, don’t you think? ‘What did you do today, babe? ‘Oh, you won’t believe it hon, we gossiped till eternity, shopped, enjoyed our tea to bits, and musket blasted each other right in the middle of the mall.’ How. Lovely. Would that be. Linear formation couldn’t possibly be anyone’s preferred formation, not for the ones who liked to, you know, live.
It is believed that the main reason they fought like degenerates in the 17th, 18th and the early-19th century was because muskets were pathetic weapons. Not only were they as inaccurate as the airguns in a Diwali mela, but they also had a laughable range of approximately 50 yards. 50 yards? Our not-so-friendly Haryana policemen have a spitting range of more than 50 yards! Adding to all this, the muskets would give out so much smoke after only a few rounds, that the whole field would be covered by it. So it was all just a massive guessing game where an army of men play ‘Duck Hunt’ with human heads while the entire field is covered in smoke. Wow!
The worst bit, only 10-15% of casualties were recorded at an average Civil War battle.
3. “People who end up on the losing side, more often than not, die.”
You can pretty much notice it every possible time, whether it’s Gladiator, The Last Samurai, the entire Pakistani contingent in all war movies ever made, and more recently, Stannis Baratheon’s last stand in the riveting Game Of Thrones finale. The battle will begin, and it will not stop until every single person in the opposition is stabbed to death. Eventually trying to imply that war is bad. No make it worse, war is hell.
It is hell, of course, but unless you’re playing campaign mission on Call Of Duty, everyone doesn’t die. Even one of the deadliest wars in the history of mankind, World War I, Battle Of Verdun, had most soldiers walk back with life and limbs where they were supposed to be. Of the 2.4 million soldiers who fought in the war, up to 976,000 got injured, and 305,000 ended up losing their lives. Not to trivialise the efforts of the brave hearts who laid down their lives for their countries, but there’s a huge gap between 2.4 million and 305,000, and that’s about as bad as it gets.
Unfortunately the biggest killer in any of the battles ever fought in history, has to be, hands down, disease.
4. “Everyone is out to kill the other person.”
It generally doesn’t matter if it’s Kargil, or Greece, or WWII, when it comes to the movies, it’s pretty much the same everywhere. Filled with rage, armies march on seeking the blood of their rivals, just so they can finish it off, and go back to their beloved families who have been singing their crappy songs, remembering them. They don’t want to kill, but they have to, otherwise the country will make salamis off their souls. ‘People next to you, are your brothers, and tonight, you’ll come out victorious, or be laid to rest, right here, right next to them.’ Yyyeahh, something to that effect.
You know the one thing most people are uncomfortable with? Exactly. Murdering random people they have absolutely no clue about. After the second World War, the U.S military did a survey, and the results weren’t very surprising. It showed that only 15-20% would voluntarily open fire on their enemy. The rest would just not take any action unless their commanding officers gave them specific orders to do so. We might make light of it, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to realise that things are bloody intense in a war. It takes a special set of balls to open fire, let alone kill, someone you don’t know.
5. “The artillery is just random background hoo-ha. Rifles and machine guns are what really take lives. Or, just in case you’re in the Sunny Deol lineage, hand grenades.”
Remember how in every other war movie, once the cover blows, the good guys are running for cover and none of the artillery explosions make any difference to the good guys? So much so that they don’t even TRY to dodge those massive bombs being thrown at them. It’s like the bombs re-route themselves instead of falling on one of the good guys. I’m talking about the core group here, a couple of extras get thrown about in the air, that’s part of all the fun. It’s like these grenades are the worst form of ammunition, comparable to that one underwear with 4,26,58,914 holes. You don’t use it, but when you do, it solves no purpose, whatsoever. All’s fair, till the time the protagonist gets his hands on the massive machine-gun, or till the time the bad guy sets up his super swanky sniper rifle. Also, if you haven’t noticed, barring American Sniper, no good guy has ever used a sniper.
Let’s just get a few things straight. Artillery is more or less an afterthought in movies. No important person has every died in a movie because of a bomb. But in real life, artillery is your worst enemy on the battlefield. It has been the primary combat related-killer in wars. While machine-guns can still be taken out by a guy with a decent aim, and snipers aren’t exactly there for mass destruction, bombs can actually make you shit in your pants, literally. Here’s a little fact, between 70-80 percent of causalities in World War I were from artillery.
But it’s quite understandable why movies don’t share the love of artillery like war generals. A movie wants every death to be a meaningful duel between the good team and the bad team. Bombs don’t do that, they’re impersonal after all. The drama that a bullet gets you, a bomb wouldn’t, would it?
This piece has been inspired from an article on cracked.com