IAF Pilot Relives The Reel Life His Father Helped To Create

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by Umar Khurshid

SRINAGAR: It is quite rare that some people who witness a situation in real life see it on the screen. But it is highly rare that individuals who contributed in creating a scene for reel life eventually land in the same situation in real life.

IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the movie starrer Karthi and Aditya and Air Marshall S Varthaman

That exactly is the story of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, currently in Pakistan custody and is readying to fly home on Friday. He was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday after his MiG crossed the LoC in a dogfight with a Pakistani warplane and crashed after taking a hit. His aircraft caught fire and crashed in PaK’s Kotli belt. He ejected and was captured. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that he will be sent home on Friday as a “goodwill gesture” to “deescalate tensions”.

Son of Air Marshall S Varthaman, Abhinandan is a resident of Jalvayu Vihar in Selaiyur, near to Air Force colony in Chennai. His wife Tanvi Marwaha is a retired Squadron leader of the IAF. In fact, his brother is also in the IAF.

It is interesting that Abhinandan’s father was a consultant in the making of Tamil film Kaatru Veliyidai(Amidst the Atmosphere) in 2017. It was a Tamil-language romance film produced, written and directed by Mani Ratnam, a recipient of Padma Shri.

What is remarkable that Abhinandan re-lived the moment that was at the core of the Tamil film, his father helped create. The pilot takes a ride to Pakistan during the war, where his jet gets crashed and he ultimately lands in a Pakistani jail.

A poster of the Tamil flick kaatru veliyidai

In the movie, the protagonist of the flick Varun Chakrapanior VC (Karthi) is an army pilot and Leela played by Aditi Rao Hydari, a doctor, meet at the time of the Kargil war.

During a mission, VC’s jet is shot down in Pakistan and he is captured and jailed. While in captivity, he begins to feel remorseful about his attitude towards Leela which forces him to break out of a Pakistani jail not once, but twice in the most outlandish way possible.

The only thing that makes this film different from real life is that while VC escapes from the jail, in real life he is set free by the jailer country.

A day after the Abhinandan was captured, the Kaatru Veliyidai starrer Karthi said he is fortunate to have met some of the fighter pilots of India and prayed for the safe return of the pilot.

“I’m very fortunate to have met a few of our fighter pilots in #IAF. It‘s a true honour to know them and they are men of a different league,” Karthi wrote on his twitter. “I sincerely pray for the safe return of our warriors.”

Interestingly, a known Kashmiri actor Mir Sarwar– who has already appeared in a number of Bollywood movies as a pivotal role, plays the role of a Pakistani officer Muzaffar Khan in Kaatru Veliyidai under whom the Indian Pilot remains captive.

A Kashmir based Bollywood actor Mir Sarwar

Pertinently, from last one decade, Kashmir has produced a number of artists and all of them are doing well in their respective fields.

But Abhinandan’s fall and capture is not less than a drama and will eventually make another film, anytime soon. While Delhi was initially in denial mode, live coverage of his fall and capture was splashed all over the social media.

Only a few hours after his MiG crashed somewhere in Bhimber belt, a video of the pilot surfaced on the social media, in which a person wearing a flight suit is heard saying that he is Wing Commander Abhinandan. He is blindfolded and gives out his service number. He then asks if he is in the custody of the Pakistan military. Later, he refuses to answer further questions.

A few hours later, he was seen sipping tea with his “hosts”, far away from the Horran village he landed in his parachute.

Writing for the Dawn, Tariq Naqash reported from Muzaffarabad that Mohammad Razzaq Chaudhry, the 58-year old political and social activist watched the two fighters on fire. Its wreckage fell more than one kilometre away from Razzaq’s home in a deserted field.

“Mr Razzaq said he saw a parachute descending towards the ground, which made landing around one kilometre away from his house but on the southern side,” the report said.

The pilot, the report said was equipped with a pistol. He asked the youngsters whether it was India or Pakistan. “On this, one of them intelligently responded that it was India,” the report said. “The pilot, later identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, shouted some slogans and asked which place exactly it was in India. To this, the same boy responded that it was Qilla’n.” Later, the pilot said his “back was broken” and sought water.

“Some emotional youth, who could not digest the slogans, shouted Pakistan army zindabad. On this, Abhinandan shot fire in the air while the boys picked up stones in their hands,” the Dawn reported. “According to Mr Razzaq, the Indian pilot ran a distance of half a kilometre in backward direction while pointing his pistol towards the boys who were chasing him.”

Razzaq told the newspaper that the pilot fired some more gunshots in the air to frighten them but to no avail. “Then he jumped into a small pond where he took out some documents and maps from his pockets, some of which he tried to swallow and soaked others in the water,” the report said. “The boys kept on asking him to drop his weapon and in the meanwhile, one boy shot at his leg, Mr Razzaq said.”

Finally, the report said, “boys got hold of him from both arms and some of them roughed him up, in a fit of rage, while others kept on stopping them.” Then the army personnel arrived there and took him into their custody.

Abhinandan dominated the bad news that was the outcome of the tensions that erupted on Wednesday morning when PAF aircrafts intruded into Rajouri belt and dropped some bombs. They were chased away by the IAF aircraft. It was in this dogfight that many say was an “air ambush” that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 Bison was shot down.

On Thursday evening, after the Pakistani government decided to release the Wing Commander Abhinandan who had fallen across LoC, the IAF Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor appreciated the move and said; “We are happy that our pilot who had fallen across the Line of Control and was in custody of Pakistan is being released, we’re extremely happy to have him back. We only see it as a gesture which is in consonance with all Geneva conventions.”

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