Written by Manisha Lakhe on January 11, 2019
Loud Country Cousin Of Zero Dark Thirty
Four Pakistani terrorists infiltrated an Indian Army base and killed sleeping soldier in their barracks in Uri. India replied with Zero Dark Thirty style over the border attack called ‘Surgical Strikes’. It’s shot well, and despite being a patriotic revenge drama it remains soulless.
The first half of the film establishes the hard working commandos beautifully. They work on the North-East Manipur-Myanmar border, they defend our borders in North-West in Kashmir. They are daring and yet family men. The bosses both of the armed forces and the politicians in the capital are very supportive and make sure brave officers don’t retire, but set to a desk job so that saves him (and the country) from a resignation.
Who Gives A Flying Feck About Army Rules, Vicky Kaushal Is Our Hero And He Will Haz Macho Beard!
Vicky Kaushal is Major Vihaan Shergill a fearless commando, unafraid to go mano-a-mano with terrorists is the hero of the film. He wants to take voluntary retirement after a successful ambush of terrorists and insurgents in the North East because his mother (Swaroop Sampat) is suffering from Alzheimer's. His brother in law is Mohit Raina (of the TV show about Shiva fame) who is also a fearless Army commando captain who is now posted in Uri, an army camp base in Kashmir.
Mohit Raina has a hair style that can only be explained as put finger in electrical socket and switch it on, and Vicky Kaushal has been given a beard. Both a no-no in the Army, but who cares about rules. They have to look good! Hoo haah!
Pakistani Baad India Good! Let's Shake Fists In Air! Taaliyaan! Seetiyaan!
Terrorists have been known to enter India from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and make small inroads and they have killed many civilians. On the government level, Pakistan has always denied being directly involved, and India has furnished proof each time in International courts. But justice delayed is justice denied, but this narrative has been fed to the people of India. Paresh Rawal plays Govind (in reality Ajit Doval) the National Security Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister, who says that this time the troops are not going to be happy with diplomacy and would like to respond to Pakistan with force, in the form of Surgical Strikes - operations where a team infiltrates the enemy country and blows up the terrorist camps. This puts Pakistan in a position where they cannot complain about camps they have denied the existence of, Internationally. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (played by Rajat Kapoor) gives orders to carry out surgical strikes in complete secrecy.
Also, Jai Gorment!
You groan at the obvious pandering to the government by this film. First when the Prime Minister congratulates the team on the Manipur strike, and then when he gives the go ahead for the surgical strikes and needlessly says that it needs to be conducted in secrecy and that there should be no logs of the meeting. With moles being shown on both sides of the fence, and meeting with a roomful of ministers unrecorded seems like a red flag, no? But the ministers all look cast terrifically, especially Manohar Parrikar, the Defence Minister at that time. It bothered me to see Pakistani people being portrayed as noxious. Raazi did a terrific job, and showed no disrespect for Pakistanis. It was awful and caricaturish to show an enemy mole (played by Rakesh Bedi) who burps through hisi dialog as he shares coordinates of terrorist camps with Indian Intelligence.
They even check the needless politically correct boxes by having Yami Gautam (looks lovely) play the Intelligence officer, and have a female helicopter pilot (Kirti Kulhari).
All is not lost. There are moments where you genuinely get caught in the moment. An episode with a spy bird equipped with a camera getting almost caught by a young terrorist in training gets an A+ grade. Also the very first incursion scene in Manipur-Myanmar give you hope that the film could have great action scenes. Wrong.
Sab Original Hai. Serbia Looks Like Pakistan!
The film is shot in Serbia, and you really have to be blindly patriotic to forget that the Line Of Control at the India Pakistan border has the Himalayas. But who cares, Vicky Kaushal who has sat at the desk for at least six months is leading a team of crack commandos on a super secret mission. Only that the sardar sent on the mission tells him, 'I'm being sent off on a super secret mission to avenge our fallen comrades at Uri, I've come to say bye!'
You are horrified, but dudes, what patriotism!
A Super Secret, Super Loud Stealth Mission
We have a Zero Dark Thirtyish scenario. Where the terrorists are holding out in a two storied building, and the crack commando team has to enter the home and kill them all. Alpha, Bravo and Charlie teams have gone elsewhere to kill other camps. But the Delta team has to kill two chaps who planned the Uri massacre. The proceedings naturally conducted in English, and seem to step over the Hindi patriotic fervour the film tries to evoke when they show the funeral of the Uri soldiers. The Delta team has to go through caves instead of dropping down near the Abbottabad… Oops… The house where the terrorists live. But the sound effects guy just goes crazy here. Vicky Kaushal splashes through the water, followed by at least ten other guys. Each splash louder than the first. They stomp, yes, stomp through the streets, someone switching off street lights. The army boots are not on stealth mode, and you wonder how the terrorists could be sleeping through this very loud group heard on surround sound. The booby trapped gate is a very nice touch and you wish everything else were handled with that same tense silence. But we hear army lads climb up stairs like loudly and fearlessly and we add facepalming sounds to that already noisy scene.
Bhai Ka Badlaaaaa! Chilla Chilla Ke Lo!
All kinds of killing happens and you just shake your head then. It had to be violent. And then when our hero catches the baddest of the bad guys, he has lots of time for speechifying, ‘Go to hell and meet all your friends!’ They grapple again, hero now pokes the baddie’s eyes. There’s more grunts and angry speech,’You came and killed my brothers, now we come to your house and kill you, all of you!’ Of course the hero has to let out a primal scream, that am sure can be heard all the way to Pakistan’s capital. Some people will clap, because hero has avenged his brother in law’s death with the ear splitting war cry, ‘Indian Aaaaaaarmy!’ Who cares if their job was do this quietly and return to India stealthily? Of course, everyone back in the Indian Situation Rooms is clapping too. Credibility at the cost of applause from the cheap seats. In the election year, I suppose all is fair...
(a politicallycorrect version of this review appears on nowrunning dot com)