The film opens with a dramatic shot of an Indian soldier's wireless set chirping frantic commands from one of the army bases, calling a patrol to report in, while the radio operator lies dead in the snow. After frantic attempts, from various battalions, to locate their lost patrols, the Indian Army HQ in Jammu and Kashmir decides to deploy more troops, but suffers a rude shock when company, and even battalion-sized attacks are beaten back by the largely unknown enemy sitting on top of the steep and treacherous peaks surrounding Kargil, Mushkoh valley, Drass, Batalik and the Kaksar sectors. After these terrible and surprising reverses the decision is taken to go ahead with maximum mobilization and move its best fighting units into the area of operations.
The first unit deployed is 1/11 Gurkhas (1st Bn 11th Brigade) who are specialists in high altitude warfare. 1/11 is led by its CO, Col. Lalit Rai (Sudesh Berry), and has the charismatic and brave Lt. Manoj Pandey (Ajay Devgan) leading one of its platoons. Subsequently, the 18th Grenadiers, which was in the Kashmir Valley guarding against terrorist infiltration when they were urgently summoned to help throw out the intruders, are deployed. The Granadiers were led by Colonel Kaushal Thakur (Raj Babbar), and among the officers and soldiers were men like Lt Colonel R Vishwanathan (Monish Bhel), Major Rajesh Adhikari (Karan Nath), Lt Balwan Singh (Akshaye Khanna), Captain Sachin Nimbalkar (Actor Unknown), and Grenadiers Yogendra Singh Yadav. Other units like the 3rd Jat and 13th J&K Rifles are also inducted into the theater of conflict.
The first assault is by the 1/11 Gurkhas advance platoon led by Lt Manoj Pandey which links with the beleaguered and severely mauled Sikh Bn and then follows up to launch his attack on Kukarthang post which is a very heavily defended enemy position supported by mortar units and artillery batteries on the Pakistani side of LOC. The Gurkhas take Kukarthang after suffering heavy casualties revealing that the enemy is not a rag-tag bunch of Mujaheddin but rather a trained army unit which is being given full fire support from across the LOC.
The second battle is at the strategic Tololing mountain which sits astride the vital National Highway 1, the main supply route for the entire Northern Kashmir sector including Siachen and Leh. Col Kaushal's 18th Grenadiers 1st company,led by Major Adhikari, attacks Tololing. The company is held up midway to the top due to heavy fog, so it decides to wait for clear weather. The men when half asleep suffer intense shelling from artillery and mortars, causing several casualties and panic. They try to get to safety by moving up the mountain, but are pushed down by heavy small arms fire from intruders dug into the well-prepared position atop the mountain. Subsequent counter-attacks from the Indians are stifled by stiff resistance, in the absence of artillery support for the Indians, claiming the lives of Major Adhikari and Lt Col Vishwanathan.
The 18th Grenadiers are relieved by 2nd Rajputana Rifles, commanded by Lt Col Ravindran (Ashish Vidyarthi), which moves in with an artillery battery of 110 mm field artillery and acclimatised troops. They launch a multi-pronged attack under artillery cover which ends in success, but at the cost of losing many officers and ranks, including Lt Vijayant Thapar (Amar Upadhyay), Maj Padmapani Acharya (Nagarjuna) and Maj Vivek Gupta (Himanshu Malik). All this happens while the 13th J&K Rifles led by Lt Col Y K Jyoshi (Sanjay Dutt) stands by in case the 2nd Raj Rif fails.
The 13th JAK is blooded at Rocky Mount where they take the field after suffering heavy casualties and then follows it up with another victory at Point 5400 where Lt Vikram Batra (Abhishek Bachhan) distinguishes himself by taking the south face of Pt 5400 without any casualties and is promoted to captain.
The decisive phase of the of war has come. 18th Grenadiers are assigned to take Tiger Hill, 3rd Jat to Three Pimple feature, 1/11 Gurkha to Khalubar Ridge and 13th J&K to Bunker Complex. The Grenadiers take Tiger Hill after a daring stealth attack by the elite Ghatak section, losing its lead Nk Yogender Yadav (Ashutosh Rana), and only one of them (Manoj Bajpai) survives to link up with the rest of the battalion. 3rd Jat suffers heavy casualties with Capt Anuj Nayyar (Saif Ali Khan) and several others injured, but is able to secure Three Pimple.
1/11 Gurkha links up with 22 Grenadiers at the base of Khalubar Ridge after braving an intense creeping barrage of artillery. Pandey somehow keeps the sagging morale of the weary unit up till the battalion begins its attack. The plans go awry as Gurkha CO Col Rai is injured by machine gun fire. Pandey volunteers to take out the bunkers which are holding up the attack. The machine guns are taken out, but Pandey is killed in action.
The last battle is fought by the 13th J&K attacking Bunker Complex but the unit gets split up and Capt Batra is sent to link up with one of the cut off platoons. Batra links up with the platoon but is pinned down himself by heavy enemy fire, he single handedly takes out two bunkers but is mortally wounded. The 13th JAK pursues the enemy to the LOC but stops due to orders not to cross the LOC.
The women play only a minor role in the movie, similar to that in JP Dutta's last war epic Border, and are limited to scenes showing them weeping over their departed men.
|Sanjay Dutt||Lt Col. Y.K. Joshi, 13 JAK Rifles|
|Ajay Devgan||Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, 1/11 Gurkha Rifles|
|Saif Ali Khan||Capt. Anuj Nayyar, 17 JAT|
|Suniel Shetty||Sepoy Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK Rifles|
|Sanjay Kapoor||Maj. Deepak Rampal, 17 JAT|
|Abhishek Bachchan||Lt. Vikram Batra, 13 JAK Rifles|
|Akshaye Khanna||Lt. Balwan Singh, 18 Grenadiers|
|Manoj Bajpai||Gren. Yogender Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers|
|Nagarjuna Akkineni||Maj. Padmapani Acharya, 2 Rajputana Rifles|
|Amar Upadhyay||Capt. Vijayanth Thapar, 2 Rajputana Rifles|
|Ashutosh Rana||Yogender Singh|
|Karan Nath||Maj. Rajesh Adhikari, 18 Grenadiers|
|Akanksha Malhotra||Kiran Adhikari|
|Raj Babbar||Col. Khushal Thakur, 18 Grenadiers|
|Mohnish Bahl||Lt Col. R. Viswanathan, 18 Grenadiers|
|Sudesh Berry||Col. Lalit Skeevey Rai, 1/11 Gurkha Rifles|
|Avtar Gill||Sub. Digendra Kumar, 2 Rajputana Rifles|
|Milind Gunaji||Maj. Rajan Adhumac, 13 JAK Rifles|
|Kiran Kumar||Col. Bawa, 17 JAT|
|Bikram Saluja||Capt. Sanjeev Jamwal, 13 JAK Rifles|
|Ashish Vidyarthi||Col. Ravindran, 2 Rajputana Rifles|
|Rani Mukerji||Hema (Manoj Pandey's love interest)|
|Raveena Tandon||Deepak's wife|
|Kareena Kapoor||Simran (Anuj Nayyar's love interest)|
|Preeti Jhangiani||Balwaan's love interest|
|Mahima Chaudhry||Yogendra Yadav's wife|
|Esha Deol||Dimple (Vikram Batra's love interest)|
|Isha Koppikar||Rifleman Sanjay's fiancee|
|Divya Dutta||Yogendra Yadav's wife|
|Priya Gill||Charulatha (Acharya Padmapani's wife)|
|Namrata Shirodkar||Joshi's wife|
|Maya Alagh||Manoj Pandey's mother|
|Akanksha Malhotra||Rajesh Singh Adhikari's wife|
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