Sankalp Reddy’s Ghazi (The Ghazi Attack in Hindi) opens with a weirdass disclaimer. Almost like a mutual funds television commercial, even the narrator sounds exhausted by the minute-long thing. Well, we can’t blame anyone as co-producer Karan Johar hasn’t had a good run with nationalists of late. Talking about nationalism and related emotions, Ghazi is about an undersea Indo-Pak war, back in 1971. The premise is fresh and hence a surefire sellout. So, does Ghazi rise above the ‘idea’? Gladly it does.
The film pleasantly opens with the famous Bachchan baritone, setting context on what’s coming up. Then we get a little more happiness with seasoned players like the late Om Puri and Nasser hogging the screen for a while. Treading a conventional storytelling pattern, we are shown Pakistani militants and their plans as well. Also introduced are the officers going aboard India’s submarine INS Vikrant for an immediate operation to combat the same. The writer comes up with such obvious character designs that you can even afford to doze off for a good 30 minutes and still not miss anything.
Anyhow, there is something about untold stories, more about unseen backdrops. Indian cinema viewers might have probably heard about a submarine. Not about the nitty-gritties on how it worked, that too in the 70s in a war situation. Vividly visualized and shot, it is the submarine that intrigues us more than the scenario in question. Not prepared for the amount of techniques there, we strive hard to understand the mechanism of this huge underwater object. Come to think of it, as a story Ghazi offers nothing new. It is just that medium where the fight transpires is different and unseen.
Ghazi’s first half is devoid of surprises. Characters act out as predicted and takes the film to its momentous interval point. The proceedings picks pace in the second half as officer Arjun Varma (Rana Daggubati) takes over the reigns. There is elevated drama, tense dialogues being exchanged and patriotism to the right measures. In a screenplay that mildly imitates a rigorous video game, Ghazi abounds in spine-chilling moments, in this phase. Only till the momentum hits a screeching halt in the pre-climax with as many as two patriotic songs (the Indian National Anthem as well) popping up as narrative devices. Easy to convince India’s ever-so-patriotic cinegoers but the very aspect takes away a good percentage of the film’s charm. Not to mention the predictable, heroic ending the film eventually tiptoes to.
Ghazi’s Pakistani villain played by Rahul Singh is a man of wits. When exasperated with the Indian submarine moving up and down, missing the Pakistani torpedoes, the man exclaims, “Saala, officer hai ki liftman?” When tired of hiding away, the man goes, “Lukka chuppi bahut ho gayi…”, making a good chunk of millennials smirk. In a way, all of this commercial tropes work or else the film would have been a dull documentary. Director Sankalp Reddy stays away from experimenting too much and it as if he barely had any time to. Not that we should complain.
Performances are top-notch in Ghazi. Roping in Rana Daggubati as the lead protagonist is a case of casting done right. Buff with a smouldering, no-nonsense demeanour, the man ably carries the film on his shoulders (a very broad one, at that). Kay Kay Menon is fantastic, as always. Atul Kulkarni shines in well-penned character and makes us wish to see more of this gifted actor. We also wonder what Taapsee Pannu is doing in a forced cameo? Why can’t we have an all-male cast?
Ghazi is also an assured product on the technical front. Cinematography by Madhi is world class, to say the least. Equally applaud-worthy is Sreekar Prasad’s deft editing. The war scenes, in particular, shows his supreme command over craft. K’s background score and brilliant sound mixing add a lot to the plot.
While Ghazi clearly isn’t made to please connoisseurs of purist cinema, the film’s honesty and overall mounting works in its favour. Its novel concept, compelling performances and confident shot-taking make it one of the finest commercial offerings in recent times.
Rating: ★★★ 1/2