“India’s Most Wanted”… A spy thriller that fails to keep you on tenterhooks!
Fugitive hunt in cinema comes with a certain unique appeal even in their usual absence of topsy-turvy plots. Comparable to sports drama and underdog victory tales in terms of unsurprising narrative trajectories, this subgenre generally packs in a lot of motion – call it the magic of the editors who deftly stack frames one after the other or the presence of alert actors whose movements set the screens ablaze. Directly Rajkumar Gupta’s pacy thrillers in similar genres have often seen to have some of these salient features – pace, heightened original score and a couple of protagonists who are forever hyper. In his latest outing India’s Most Wanted, the filmmaker charters a path similar to his loved films Aamir and No One Killed Jessica. It’s swift, dramatic but with a layer of nationalism that we somehow saw coming, provided the present political weather in India.
India’s Most Wanted is about five men from diverse age groups and regional identities who are informers to National Intelligence Agency. Headed by Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor), we find these men take unimaginable risks to nab a dreaded terrorist who is responsible for a series blasts across India. Rest of the film, like Gupta’s erstwhile films, is less about the story but the process. India’s Most Wanted does grip you in parts but fully finds its grip solely in the last thirty minutes.
Written by Gupta himself, the leads in India’s Most Wanted lack shades in themselves. The men come together and they do not really forge a camaraderie among each other. In unforeseen ways, the film makes the job of a spy look a little too easy. While the idea might have been to keep the plot no-nonsense, the characters’ lack of backgrounds ends up as a hiccup, taking into account the risky nature of their vocation. This way, the film needlessly garlands the men with a manipulative sash of nationalism that is easy to sell but hard to make sense of.
More problematic is the villain Yusuf’s (Sudev Nair, who looks menacing) characterization. The film establishes how the top officials are blaming Pakistan and other Islamic nations for the attacks caused but the man, interestingly, is from Karnataka. One badly wishes how India’s Most Wanted could throw some light into the trend of young, educated men joining extremist organizations such as SIMI and ISIS. However, all that the film gives its villain are a bunch of stage play-styled soliloquies which are unexciting – especially since the actor and the premise contain loads of intrigue. As for the process of capturing the criminal, the film relies fully on Gupta’s skills as a director and not a writer.
Among actors, Arjun Kapoor tries but it is hard to etch emotions out of his near-dead pair of eyes. His dialogue delivery is monotonous and the actor’s inability to use his physicality comes across as a major deficiency, particularly for a film designed by Raj Kumar Gupta whose protagonists are generally very agile. Rajesh Sharma is in top form yet again and delivers a knockout performance that carries his characteristic stamp. The supporting cast does their part well despite their undercooked characterizations. Unlike a similar film Parmanu, the film does not waste time on needless female characters but it does come with a bunch of lifeless songs that come and go for no good reason. Amit Trivedi’s original score is inconsistent – sometimes apt or otherwise glaringly out of sync. Cinematography (Dudley) and editing (Rakesh Yadav, Bodhaditya Banerjee) are the mainstays in the film as they do justice to the subgenre as well as the regions they attempt to capture.
In totality, India’s Most Wanted does have traces of Raj Kumar Gupta’s edge-of-the-seat thrillers from the past. Still, there is this essential lack of a gripping screenplay that fails to translate into a riveting screen experience. To coin a simple anecdote, I remember reading about the Sicilian mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano a decade back. A simple article which described an actual event could give me unforgettable adrenaline high that a fictional feature like India’s Most Wanted does not. Crippled by Kapoor’s uninspiring central act, the film and its plot fail to soar even though we sense how the filmmaker tries hard to land a punch with his unexciting source material. It sits somewhere on the periphery, milking the technical departments to generate all the excitement while the screenplay is staid, unadventurous – which is a pity of a film of this genre.
Rating: ★★ 1/2