Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma
Direction: Raj Kumar Gupta
Raj Kumar Gupta had shown rare flourish as a director when he made his debut with ‘Aamir’ (2008), the Rajeev Khandelwal-starrer, an edge-of the-seat thriller that made us sit up and take notice. Gupta followed this up with another compelling biographical story, ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (2011), a casting coup with Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan powering the story with extraordinary performances.
Unfortunately, the director seemed to have lost the plot with ‘Ghanchakkar’ (2013) and ‘Raid’ (2018).
Come 2019, and the trailers of ‘India’s Most Wanted’ made me feel like this film could have what it takes to bring Gupta back in reckoning. Based almost along the same lines as ‘Aamir’, this latest release, I felt, would catapult Gupta into prominence again.
Alas, that wasn’t meant to be.
The covert operation in the new film to nab ‘India’s Most Wanted', a terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds, turns out to be nothing but a laborious ordeal. The narrative lacks pace and ambles along, failing to provide the build-up that an exercise of this scale needs.
Arjun Kapoor and his motley crew undertake the almost impossible job of tracing the whereabouts of 'India’s Osama', a terrorist who has managed to remain elusive. The terror mastermind is nicknamed ‘Ghost’ and has managed to stay off the radar of all of India’s intelligence agencies. While India believes he is hiding in Pakistan or Dubai, Prabhat (played by Arjun Kapoor) has exclusive intel from his informer that the zealot is actually in Nepal.
And thus, Prabhat and team decide to embark on this surgical strike with no weapons and no support from the Indian government. They pool in money from their own salaries to fund the operation and rely on their own contacts to see them through any predicament.
All this sounds fine on paper, but the lethargic cinematic execution of this entire process is exhausting to the viewer.
The team has just four days to trust their instincts and get the job done. But there’s nothing instinctive about the way these people conduct themselves. They often seem confused on whether to trust their sources or not, and exhibit blatant disregard for the authorities. At no point do they seem sure of what their Plan B is -- in fact, unfortunately, they seem fairly oblivious to their Plan A as well.Under such circumstances, the storyline plods along and the four days seem to stretch for a seeming eternity.
This was a movie that Arjun desperately needed to work. His past few releases have tanked at the Box Office ands this one too is likely to leave his fans unimpressed -- there’s nothing nimble about the way this field officer conducts himself. He doesn’t seem like a man on a secret mission, leave alone on one in which his life is at stake.
So Arjun lumbers along, looking most unsure of what his next move should be; forget about taking on a lethal villain without any ammunition!
The supporting cast seems to be as much at a loss as the lead actor. What they call a ‘surgical strike' actually seems like one of the easiest covert operations I have seen on screen in recent times. The film is big on heavy duty 'dialoguebaazi', but fails to deliver the punch where necessary.
The skull cap-clad terrorist is our favorite trope these days, but we need more than cursory bomb blasts and eerie Arabian muzak to make a film watchable. I think it's time Bollywood moved beyond cliches, before the audience moves on from Bollywood 'thrillers' en masse.
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