Sunday , 17 February 2019
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FILM REVIEW – SACHIN CHATTE

Zero Dark Thirty

Film: Uri: The Surgical Strike, Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, Paresh Rawal, Directed by: Aditya Dhar, Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins,Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Not since Chetan Anand made ‘Haqeeqat’ (1964) have we had a war film that is not completely over the top or too dramatic – ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ has its set of issues in terms of the screen play but for a large part, it is a few notches above the rest and had it not spiralled into unnecessary theatrics towards the end, it would have been even better.

Written and directed by debutante Aditya Dhar, Uri is also a technically accomplished film. The camerawork by Mitesh Mirchandani and the action by Stefan Richter not forgetting the highly effective sound design all add up and contribute immensely to the film.

Split into chapters like a Tarantino film, Vicky Kaushal plays Major Vihaan who carries out a successful operation on the India-Myanmar border against terrorists. Even though he is too young, he wants to quit the army and look after his mother (good old Swaroop Sampat) who has Alzheimer’s which is in the advanced stage. Rajat Kapoor plays Prime Minister Modi, who helps Major Vihaan get a desk job in Delhi. We learn more about the Major’s family and his life at the desk, and the new job is something that he is not very happy with.

Then comes the Uri attack in 2016, where terrorists from Pakistan disguised as military men launched an assault on the army base, killing several Indian soldiers and wounding many more.

The powers that be, the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar (Yogesh Soman), other cabinet ministers and National Security Advisor (Paresh Rawal playing Ajit Doval) decide on a surgical strike on the camps which are in PoK, across the line of control.

The plans are laid, Major Vihaan is back in action and has a purpose as well – to lead the delicate mission. Up to this point, the film gets most of the elements right and this could have been a close Indian cousin of Bigelow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2013) but it fritters away towards the end. It all gets a bit too filmy with the double agents in Pakistan and the stereotyped portrayal of the administration there. The preparation for the strike then turns out to be more effective than the assault itself. The combat scenes are well executed but you wish the story was more clinical than a revenge saga. For a moment the thought that it might descend into’ Gadar’ territory did cross my mind, mercifully, it didn’t.

Barring the central protagonist, the other characters – Yami Gautam as a special agent and Kirti Kulhari as a pilot and the widow of an officer are cursory.

The film rests on the able shoulders of Vicky Kaushal who continues to impress with every single outing. Whether it is the action or emotional scenes, he is bang on every single time.

Ultimately, this surgical strike hits the target, more often than not.

 

A Disastrous Accident

Film: The Accidental Prime Minister, Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna, Suzanne Bernert, Directed by: Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, Duration: 2 hrs, Rating: * 1 / 2

‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ is a shoddy adaptation of the book by Sanjaya Baru, who was the media advisor to the former prime minister, Manmohan Singh. The book itself, which was released just before the General Elections in 2014, didn’t look at Singh’s tenure very kindly and neither does the film.

Momentarily, if we leave politics aside, this is a deathly dull adaptation – at times, actually most of the times, you feel like you are watching spoof and the structure of the screenplay doesn’t help one bit.

Since not every book adaptation is absolutely accurate, here, the filmmaker has cherry picked certain incidents and left out others. But there is no great revelation – it doesn’t tell us something that we don’t already know.

The book summed up the fact that the good doctor was not in control with was what happening in the prime minister’s office – someone else was calling the shots and the film also portrays the same, but in a rather dreary manner. What is remarkable here is that most politicians and bureaucrats go by real names – Ahmed Patel, Prithviraj Chouhan, P V Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. A couple of other names, of a lawyer who was the HRD minster, have been muted.

Akshaye Khanna plays Baru, he wears a permanent wicked grin on his face, appears as Mr Knowall and smarter than anyone else. We trace the first few years of Singh (Anupam Kher) who is shown as a honest and sincere man – the villain of the pieces are the people around him – the bureaucrats and other politicians close to the High command. Sonia Gandhi (Suzanne Bernert) is depicted as one who is more interested in saving the government, especially when it came to the nuclear deal, and that episode takes a big chunk of the film.

The character of Baru breaks the fourth wall and constantly addresses the audience directly by looking and talking to the camera – not sure what the rationale was behind that, but surely it is not effective, making it a more comic rather than a serious endeavour. Akshaye Khanna plays Baru with certain sincerity and the regard that he had for Singh comes off adequately well. Anupam Kher tries to mimic his character and appears caricaturish. A lot of the scenes also look tacky because they were shot in front of a green screen. The propaganda angle may be suspect but this is just a bland and monotonous film, that’s for sure.

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