The film begins with Rajkummar Rao in a pub arm wrestling contest with big 'white' men. Erm... No matter how much they show Rajkummar Rao exercise, he's no Sylvester Stallone. But Hansal Mehta has given us critically acclaimed Shahid and the fabulous Aligarh, so you stop scoffing and let the film take you where it wants to go.
We see that he's stalking tourists. And you grin at the ridiculousness of a tourist playing chess with beer in hand. Of course Omar plays chess and he drinks milk. For a terrorist who wants to blend in, a little odd, no?
The events unfold on the screen like a listicle. He stalks and kidnaps tourists, gets trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, kidnaps and butchers Daniel Pearl, and then orchestrates the 26 November attacks in India from a prison in Pakistan. Initially, you are interested because the film offers us a sort of back story: he's is a prayerful Muslim lad dropped out from London School Of Economics because he's moved by the Muslim deaths in Bosnia. But it is not a believable story at all. It feels far fetched because there isn't a direct emotional connect. The terrorist in training who holds the photographs of his parents before and after they were killed has more emotional connect than just some guy who is moved to terrorism because people are being killed in another part of the world. His dad seems so rational, it makes no sense for the lad to be indoctrinated by seeing photographs of dead people.
Perhaps the nature of indoctrination is that way. We see no womenfolk in this 'terrorist' biopic. So for Omar to say, 'You raped my mother and my sisters' seems silly almost. And if he's so 'intelligent', why does he not realise kidnapping tourists in India is just pointless exercise and not really jihad? And he loses focus from Bosnia so easily and is happy because 'people treat him well' in Pakistan.
What the film misses out is showing us why he takes joy in the killing. They use real news footage to make a point, where the original Omar is shown smirking and smiling as he is arrested. It would have made for an interesting psychological portrait had we understood where the smirk comes from. Netflix shows on Pablo Escobar keeps you involved because we understand how the mind of the man worked. Rajkummar Rao's Omar is a flat character. There are no redeeming qualities to him at all. Pablo Escobar is supposed to have set fire to 2 million dollars once because his daughter was cold. Here, Omar is rude to his wife because she claims she is worried for him. It's the only interaction in the film where Omar is shown with his family. In the scenes with his father, he just comes across as someone who needed to be slapped by his ammi a couple of times when he was younger.
The film is too disjointed by far to make any impact. In fact when you see his rational father say that he's innocent seems completely out of character. Rajkummar Rao has worked very hard on his British accent and even says 'Innit' rather well, but you wonder why he speaks English in Pakistan in a Dhaba and to other locals, and then gets enraged when other terrorists in training laugh at his 'softness'. It's a biopic, so watch it with a sense of detachment and wonder why the film was made.
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