Some war stories are narrated over and over again, and some are never heard of. The Ghazi Attack, directed by Sankalp Reddy and co-produced by Karan Johar, is inspired from one such story that was confined to the depths of the sea, until now. That's probably why the poster of the movie comes with the tagline: 'The war you did not know about'.
The bilingual movie, which Johar presented as India's first war-at-sea film, will release in Hindi and Telugu on February 17. The plot is inspired by a classified mission of the Indian Navy and the sinking of the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, off the coast of Visakhapatnam during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. PNS Ghazi, originally USS Diablo, was leased from the United States in 1963 to be Pakistan's first fast-attack submarine. To this day, the submarine's sinking remains a controversy and an enigma in the annals of war.
The upcoming movie rekindles the debate on what exactly caused the sinking of the PNS Ghazi—attack from the Indian Navy, or an accident as claimed by the Pakistani Navy.
On November 14, 1971, PNS Ghazi set off from the Karachi harbour into the Arabian Sea on a secret mission—to destroy India's flagship aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. After it received signals that Vikrant was somewhere near Visakhapatnam, Ghazi began a focused sail to the eastern coast of India. But little did the Pakistani Navy realise that they were being taken for a ride, crafted by master planner Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, the then commanding flag officer of the Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command. Krishnan, who got information about Ghazi's mission, was determined to try out all deceptive measures to keep the submarine off from Vikrant. He called upon Lt Commander Inder Singh, captain of INS Rajput, an ageing WWII destroyer, which was sent to Visakhapatnam for decommissioning. Rajput now had a new mission—it was to pretend to be INS Vikrant and sail out of the Vizag port. The smart commander also sent off Vikrant and its crew to Port X-Ray, a secret location in the Andamans. He ordered Rajput to generate heavy wireless traffic, convincing Ghazi about the location of Vikrant. To make it look all the more convincing, the Indian Navy intentionally sent a signal in the form of a message allegedly from one of Vikrant's sailors, inquiring about his mother who was critically ill. As planned, Ghazi fell for the bait and arrived in Vizag on November 27, in the hope of finding its elusive target.
What happened on the night of December 3 is where the mystery lies. The PNS Ghazi exploded, blowing open its bow and cracking open its water-tight compartments, sinking the submarine and the entire crew. What caused this explosion is the point of debate. While the Indian Navy claims that it was caused by depth attacks by its destroyer ship INS Rajput, Pakistan says the explosion was a result of Ghazi underestimating its position at night and accidentally crashing into the mines that the submarine itself was laying around the Vizag harbour. The sinking of their flagship submarine was a major blow for Pakistan during the war, which is also said to have tilted the scales in India's favour.
To this day, the submarine Ghazi lies on the Vizag seabed. The spot has been marked on navigational maps to help passing ships avoid the wreck. Inspired by the sinking of Ghazi, with a hint of fiction, The Ghazi Attack traces the experiences of an executive naval officer of Indian submarine S21, which is said to have destroyed Ghazi, and his team who remained underwater for 18 days.