Producer: Ronnie Screwvala
Director: Aditya Dhar
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Yami Gautam, Mohit Raina, Kirti Kulhari, Rajit Kapur, Manasi Parekh, Swaroop Sampat
Writer: Aditya Dhar
Music: Shashwat Sachdev
Nothing lights a patriotic fire more than watching Indian soldiers fight to the finish to protect their country. We have never watched a hardcore army-based Hindi movie that takes the audience inside the war room, to witness the strategies and backroom decisions that power the drama that usually set the screen ablaze.
To date, the emotional narrative has more or less worked for the Indian audience but we were denied our very own Zero Dark Thirty or even a Saving Private Ryan moment. Aditya Dhar hopes to change all that with Uri: The Surgical Strike.
The film opens in the forests of Manipur. Passing through this terrain is an army contingent, unaware that they are about to be ambushed. The loss of innocent lives triggers a covert operation by the Indian Army at the India-Myanmar border. Led by Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, a group of brave soldiers takes on the terrorists and eliminates them.
Vihaan’s bravery earns him the appreciation of the Prime Minister. Though Vihaan loves to be where all the action is, he is opts for a desk job in Delhi to be close to his mother who is ailing from Alzheimer’s. While the job is mundane, Vihaan finds joy in taking care of his mother and spending time with his sister Neha and niece.
It’s smooth sailing till Vihaan’s mates, which include his brother-in-law Karan Kashyap, are posted in Uri and four terrorists infiltrate their camp and 19 Indian soldiers get killed, including Karan. The Indian government Army decide to retaliate. Govindji, the National Security advisor, suggests that the only way to give a fitting reply to Pakistan is a surgical strike. Vihaan wants in on this mission and, given his past record and caliber, he is asked to lead the mission. What follows is planning, strategising and executing a surgical strike.
Dhar has managed to put together a well-researched and authentic film on the surgical strike. The writing, especially in the first half, delivers. Dhar spends a lot of time setting the tone of the characters and the premise that leads to the finale. The film is divided into chapters and that lends to an effective narrative. While full marks to Dhar for working on the details, the second half tends to drag a little, especially the actual strike. But hats off to action director Stefan Richter for making the sequences look realistic and raw. The camera work of Mitesh Mirchandani is top-notch, especially his close-up shots.
The action sequences, though shot well, seem like mindless shooting like in a video game! There is also a scene showing Indian spies in action à la Raazi. It seems forced and out of place. But there are some standout moments, like Mohit Raina’s scenes during the Uri attack; the young girl reciting the war cry at her father’s coffin; and when the character played by Vicky Kaushal leads his men out after the surgical strike.
Performance-wise, this film belongs to Vicky Kaushal. As Vihaan Singh Shergill, he brings the right amount of emotion, drama and bravado to the character. He also merges well with the story line and the rest of the characters. He is never Vicky Kaushal on screen, only Vihaan Singh Shergill, the emotional son, the loving brother and the patriotic soldier. We also get to see a charismatic side of Vihaan, but Kaushal takes care not to go over the top and to play it subtly.
Paresh Rawal as Govindji plays his part well. Yami Gautam as the intelligence officer, Pallavi Sharma, has a limited role but is good. She excels in the interrogation scene, though Kaushal does steal some of her thunder. Kirti Kulhari as an Indian Air Force pilot has an extended cameo and is able. Mohit Raina does a commendable job as Karan Kashyap. Though his role is short, he makes every moment he is on screen count. Manasi Parekh as Neha and Swaroop Sampat as Vihaan’s mother have done a good job. Mention must be made of Rajit Kapur as the Prime Minister. Thankfully, he does not Modi-fy his performance!