Banners: Fox Star Studios, Raapchik Films Production
Producers: Fox Star Studios, Raj Kumar Gupta, Myra Karn
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Shantilal Mukherjee, Sudev Nair, Jeetendra Shastri
Writer: Raj Kumar Gupta
Music: Amit Trivedi
A few years ago, this would have been a very different film. Back then, a thriller meant over-the-top action, fisticuffs, and bullets and cars flying all over the place. India’s Most Wanted, which is devoid of cheap drama, brute force and in-your-face machismo, is a beacon of new-age cinema. And, guess what? Its understated approach works.
Adding to the authenticity is the fact that the film is based on the true stories of our unsung heroes, intelligence officers who risk their lives in the service of their country. Their payoff is the sheer success of their mission as they receive no credit or public acknowledgement for their work.
Since life does not imitate art, Raj Kumar Gupta has used subtlety as his main weapon, yet keeps you riveted for the most part. He strikes a fine balance between staying true to facts and incorporating commercial elements.
The film is about five intelligence officers who are on a mission to track down India’s most notorious terrorist, Yusuf, the mastermind behind some of the most brutal blasts that have taken place across India. Prabhat is a third-generation intelligence officer. He, along with four other officers, decides to go to Nepal when they get a call from an unknown number. The source tells him about ‘Ghost’ or ‘India’s Osama’, as Yusuf who is currently residing in Nepal, is popularly known.
They decide to cross the border without any financial aid, any arms, or the permission of their superiors as the Intelligence Bureau cannot fund this undercover operation. But at its core lies the poignant story of five unsung heroes who decide to risk their lives to protect their country and still receive no acknowledgment or credit.
The film opens with a scene at The Pune Kitchen, a vibrant restaurant in Pune, on February 13, 2010. What follows next sets the tone for the film and prepares us for what is in store. The rest of it is largely set in Nepal, a country not often explored in our films. While there is hardly any scope to capture the essence of Kathmandu and the way of life there, cinematographer Dudley’s aerial shots of the city are brilliant. The teeming marketplace, unkempt tea stalls and narrow alleys are portrayed realistically.
While there are hardly any songs that are worth remembering, it is the signature Amit Trivedi background music that adds to the thrill and drama of the film. Several long-drawn scenes are lifted merely by the edgy and unconventional score.
The writing, by Gupta, delves into the loopholes in the Intelligence Bureau and is also a social commentary on the bureau’s lack of aid for its officers. The screenplay is lightly infused with humour that will crack you up at the unlikeliest of moments. The film might be fictionalised but there are raw still shots of terrorist attacks in Pune, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Delhi, among other places, which lend the story authenticity.
What works against the film is its lengthy first half. A quick dive into the main plot would have helped. However, in the second half, the film picks up pace. India’s Most Wanted is not your regular, edgy, edge-of-the-seat thriller. It allows you to immerse yourself in its world and enter the minds of its characters – slowly.
Gupta does not resort to clichés, the ones that usually lace thrillers. Hence, there is no love story or background sketches of the characters embedded in the film, and there are no unnecessary songs. He makes sure there are no diversions from the core story.
The film is powered by strong performances. Arjun Kapoor aces it as the restrained Prabhat. Even during dramatic and unnerving situations, he delivers an impressive performance through his understated acting. Most of the humour-filled lines belong to Rajesh Sharma, who is solid as the slightly unpredictable but amiable Rajesh Singh. Shantilal Mukherjee and Sudev Nair have nothing much to do. Jeetendra Shastri is okay. The rest of the cast is decent and provide ample support to the lead.
Verdict: A Must-Watch!