Monthly Archives: May 2019

India’s Most Wanted movie review: Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness has more weight than this

Do you sometimes sit in a movie hall and sense that what is unfolding on screen began with an interesting concept that somehow choked at the execution stage? India’s Most Wanted is that kind of film.

Indian intelligence officials and globe-trotting espionage agents have in recent years become a Bollywood fixation, but from the Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Agent Vinod in 2012, to Baby (2015) with Akshay Kumar in the lead, and last year’s Aiyaary headlined by Manoj Bajpayee and Sidharth Malhotra, these films have tended to kick off with a promising premise and then struggle to be anything much beyond that. India’s Most Wanted (IMW) goes down the same path.

Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor), IMW’s central character, is a stubborn fellow who has a mind of his own independent of his well-intentioned immediate superior Ravi Raj (Rajesh Sharma) and the intelligence agency for which he works. As the film opens, India is being rocked by bomb blasts engineered by shadowy figures believed to be in Pakistan and Dubai. A source gives Prabhat a lead about the mastermind behind these explosions, which indicates that the man is, in fact, in Nepal. Higher-ups in Delhi are not convinced, but Prabhat decides to head off to Nepal anyway with a motley crew of colleagues, all of them conducting the operation at their own expense. Bossman Ravi Raj gives them his blessings but not his on-the-record assent.

India’s Most Wanted movie review: Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness has more weight than this screenplay

Honest, efficient government servants defying their senior’s orders in their frustration with sarkari red tape and obduracy, and ending up in a clash with Pakistan’s ISI in a third country while hot on the heels of a brutal terrorist, that too purportedly based on a true story – this is the stuff that dreams are made of, this is thriller heaven. With such ingredients at hand, IMW should have been an exciting suspense saga. Yet from the starting block the film struggles to get into the groove, despite assembling an interesting cast who look convincing as real people rather than actors to play Prabhat’s team of rogue agents.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in the screenplay. Firstly, it took me a while – too long a while – to wrap my head around the chain of individuals that had got information to Prabhat and why. Some amount of confusion, especially initially, is not unusual in films of this variety, but they usually offer compensation in the form of an accelerated pace or breathtaking action or, in the case of directors opting for a quiet tone, an under-stated sense of urgency that taps the audience’s own instinctive assumptions about the drama and danger intrinsic to such situations in real life although they are alien to ordinary folk like us. Not here.

IMW aims at being an intelligence agency procedural rather than a Mission Impossible / James Bond enterprise, which is fine in theory since writer-director-producer Raj Kumar Gupta demonstrated his natural affinity for the genre in the excellent Ajay Devgn-starrer Raid (2018) set in the world of income-tax officials. IMW, however, simply does not lift off.

Even after the initial cobwebs are cleared, the narrative remains fuzzy. The primary informant’s motivations are never convincing, Prabhat & Co find their prey with what seems like considerable ease, the actions of their Nepalese counterparts are inexplicable, and the ISI comes across as a sluggish lot.

That last point – the absence of a powerful antagonist – is the final nail in the coffin. Before it is hammered in, the film has already been betrayed by its own seeming lack of faith in the tenor it has set for itself. In life-and-death scenarios towards the end, for instance, precious seconds and minutes are spent just staring down opponents in conventional Hindi filmi style. And the voiceover by the lead terrorist at regular intervals is ineffective.

To be fair to IMW, neither the Indian agents nor the ISI are downright dumbos, unlike the desis and their enemy targets in Baby.

What IMW does have going for it are Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness, the credibility of the supporting cast especially the inimitable Rajesh Sharma, the non-judgmental tone adopted towards Sharma’s Ravi Raj although he is not willing to stick his neck out as Prabhat does, the warm equation between him and Prabhat, and the realness of the settings. Nepal looks gorgeous, but cinematographer Dudley cleverly uses the visuals not so much to impress us with their prettiness as to conjure up an ominous atmosphere.

Most important, although the terrorist being hunted down by Prabhat is a Muslim, his religious identity is not over-emphasised to crudely cash in on the Islamophobia prevailing worldwide in the way Bollywood films like Padmaavat and Kesari have done since 2017-18 – he is what he is, that is a fact, nothing more, nothing less. His ISI backers too are not stereotypically portrayed as demonic or fumbling cartoons – they may be sluggish, as mentioned earlier, but they are not foolish. And thankfully Prabhat’s Muslim colleague is treated as a regular person, not a contrivance planted in the screenplay to be condescendingly positioned as redemption for the Muslim community – the fact that he happens to be Muslim struck me rather late in the film because a big deal is not made of it. Despite its inevitable allusions to patriotism, inevitable considering the overall theme, India’s Most Wanted also does not resort to the kind of loud, chest-thumping nationalism that is all the rage in Bollywood and the public discourse these days.

At a time when many Bollywood stalwarts are revealing themselves to be either opportunists or bigots, Raj Kumar Gupta deserves high praise for this aspect of his writing and direction, especially since such opportunism has yielded solid box-office dividends in the past year. Sadly, his decency alone cannot hold up a film. Barring occasional suspenseful passages, India’s Most Wanted does not live up to the expectations it raises in its opening scenes. It lacks the punch, pizzazz and substance to make its Shah Rukh Khan reference truly effective.

Kabir Singh new song ‘Bekhayali’ shows Shahid Kapoor coping with heartbreak

The first song ‘Bekhayali’ from Kabir Singh was dropped by the makers on 24 May (Friday). Composed by Sachet-Parampara, the song has been written by Irshad Kamil and sung by Sachet Tandon. The track encapsulates the agony of heartbreak.

Even before the song’s launch, various covers had started making the rounds on social media.

Kabir Singh new song Bekhayali shows Shahid Kapoor coping with heartbreak

The song features the lead actors, Shahid, who plays the titular role and Kiara Advani as Preeti. The video gives the viewers a glimpse of their blossoming love story and its tragic end with Preeti marrying another man.

The film is the official Hindi remake of Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, which starred Vijay Devarakonda and Shalini Pandey in the lead. Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who helmed the original, has directed the remake as well.

Kabir Singh, a T-Series and Cine1 Studios presentation, is produced by Bhushan Kumar, Murad Khetani, Krishan Kumar and Ashwin Varde. The film is slated to release on 21 June.

India’s Most Wanted: All you need to know about Yasin Bhatkal, the subject of Arjun Kapoor’s film

Arjun Kapoor’s upcoming film India’s Most Wanted is a spy thriller, following an intelligence team as they hunt for a terrorist.

The film is said to be based on the arrest of terrorist Yasin Bhatkal, who was a key conspirator in three terror acts carried out in different cities in India. Here’s everything you need to know about him:

India’s Most Wanted: All you need to know about Yasin Bhatkal, the subject of Arjun Kapoors film

Who is Yasin Bhatkal?

Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa, who was named Yasin Bhatkal by India’s investigation agencies, is the founder of the terrorist organisation Indian Mujahideen.

Between 2007 and 2013, Bhatkal planned 52 blasts across India and is responsible for the death of over 220 citizens. He was listed as number one on the Most Wanted list of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Maharashtra, in their case against the functionaries of the Indian Mujahideen. Maharashtra wasn’t the only state that was looking for him. The urgency spread across the country and the total amount for his capture was at one point close to around three crore. He was arrested at the Indian-Nepal border near Bihar in August 2013.

Yasim-copy

In India’s Most Wanted:

The film follows Arjun Kapoor and a team of five officers who captured Bhatkal, one of India’s most dangerous terrorists, without firing a single bullet or causing any civil unrest. Kapoor’s character is named Prabhat Kapoor, based on the Intelligence Bureau officer who led the mission to catch Bhatkal. According to Mumbai Mirror, the Intelligence Bureau had dubbed Bhatkal the “Ghost Who Bombs”.

The film’s trailer describes the terrorist as “India’s Osama” and describes the plot as “an untold story of the manhunt for India’s Osama”, calling his arrest “India’s proudest moment”.

Source: Twitter.

Director’s take 

The film’s writer and director Raj Kumar Gupta, when asked if the story was based on Bhatkal’s arrest, refused to name anyone but said: “I want to say it is inspired by a true event. Who is the terrorist, who have we based the story on…you can decide when you go and watch the film in the theatre. All I want to say is that it is based on a true event and it was a watershed moment of Indian intelligence department where a terrorist was captured without using a single bullet. But you have to watch the film to know the details.”

Gupta also told The Telegraph that it was exactly the terrorist’s deadly acts that prompted him to make the film. “When I heard about this for the first time, I had the same question. It’s so fascinating, that we go about our daily lives and all we hear are big headlines. Then you come across something that is of that magnitude and could have been worse. This question is what triggered this film.”