A teary-eyed young girl bids farewell to her father by screaming the war cry of his military regiment. It’s heart-breaking and leaves us emotionally crushed. But as the visuals play out, we can’t help but recall the images of the 11-year-old daughter of an officer from the Gorkha Rifles who paid a similar tribute to her father after he died fighting terrorists in Kashmir in 2015.
Uri: The Surgical Strike, however, plays out in 2016. Director Aditya Dhar manages to launch a striking attack in his debut. Armed with the sturdy Vicky Kaushal, he unveils gun battles, one after another. And you can’t help but marvel at the precision with which the sound design and lights enhance the warfare. No drama. No dialogues. Just the bullets peppering our screens and our emotions.
Although you know which side Dhar’s supporting in the conflict, he never reduces the men on the other side of the border into mere scoundrels. Just a few minutes after the curtains roll up, you watch a man pull out his mobile phone, not to make a call but to trigger a bomb. Those few seconds shows just how Dhar’s world is like no other.
However, his brilliance quickly diminishes when he leaves the battleground to explore the emotional nuances of a son’s desire to give up his dreams to nurse his ailing mother. There are moments of genuine turmoil, essayed with grace and dignity by Swaroop Sampat but some end up puncturing the narrative, especially one that involves a misplaced agent.
A botchy background score and choppy cuts on the editing desk during highly influential political meetings and emotionally charged sequences deride the mood further. This when he skipped the romance and the often-used, song-and-dance mood-lifters. But his actioner still clocks a little over two hours. Had he cut short his main man’s back story, and added a little more insight into the other men who joined him on the war front, Uri wouldn’t have been reduced into a one-man army that Bollywood often glorifies. The banter between the boys before the strikes begin is what turned movies like Zero Dark Thirty equally eerie and thrilling.
Even though Dhar doesn’t pitch Vivaan as a quintessential hero on the frontline for most parts, he ends up getting trapped in the same cliché. The climax, where the guns are abandoned for a massive wrestling match is reflective of that heroism.
But Kaushal manages to deflect much of the damage with his magnificent performance. Every moment he’s onscreen, you can’t help but marvel at his grasp of the art. Whether it’s on the battlefield or off it, Kaushal manages to strike with dazzling ease.
While Kirti Kulkarni is impactful, Yami Gautam’s part appears forced and unnecessary. Rajit Kapur takes on Modi, just as Bollywood gears for more ‘Modism’, whereas Paresh Rawal’s phone-breaking part is well written. There’s even a boy with a unique drone who wins over some laughs. Despite the setbacks, Kaushal’s war cry is one that’ll definitely wake up the patriot in us. (Watch the video review of Uri: The Surgical Strike here)