India's Most Wanted Hindi Movie ReviewFeature Film
If this election season and this weekend's other Hindi release PM Narendra Modi has taught us anything, it's that patriotism is the latest trend in the market. Raj Kumar Gupta attempts to mix in some true-life espionage and a procedural narrative into the mix but once again like the other Hindi release this week, he forgets to write a story to sell the sentimentality on.
India's Most Wanted follows a team of Indian agents, led by Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor) who go on a mission to bring back India's most wanted terrorist Yousuf within 4 days, without firing a single bullet. As the agents close in on the location of this wanted man, more and more players get added into the mix, including Nepalese police, Nepalese Mafia and even the ISI.
The story begins with a happy cafe setting, people dancing and singing like all cafe patrons usually do. Till they're all killed in a bomb blast. So, the reason for showing this excessive happiness at said Cafe was to create greater sympathy for the dead and hence greater fear of our terrorist. Raj Kumar Gupta, an otherwise extremely able filmmaker who has impressed mightily with his earlier works, resorts not once or twice but several times throughout the film to this cheap trick of killing people on screen and reveling in their torture, just to build up the antagonist. Why does he do this? Because the most feared, most wanted man is a limp-dick character with zero charisma or presence.
That's unfortunate, considering Gupta tries to build the entire suspense of the proceedings on the fact that nobody has seen his face in the last 7 years and so they don't know how to spot how he looks presently. Gupta the director does his best to cover up for Gupta the writer, trying his best to create a mythical magnetism around Yousuf that would convince the audience that he REALLY needs to be stopped, even at the cost of our agents dying. Which is why Gupta the director resorts to such simpleton moves like cutting to blast victims repeatedly, even flashing to their anguished faces every time the agents lay their eyes on Yousuf, and creating a whole hullabaloo about his eyes being distinctive, hence his giveaway facial feature.
On top of that, the film's pacing really is at odds with itself almost throughout the film. The fact is that the writer side of Gupta has absolutely no story to tell beyond the basic setup, extremely few obstacles to put in the hero's path and a terrorist who inspires no fear, which makes him convolute the plot further and further into itself till the writing slows down to a snail crawl across a busy highway. He introduces more and more characters and players with no explained motivations, be it the ISI or the local police, and he just juggles between uninteresting scenes involving each player just to keep the plot moving. To make this boring writing interesting, the directorial side of Gupta resorts to rapid and mostly unnecessary cuts, and a random Bollywood Night song number in the middle of Kathmandu.
The editors Rakesh Yadav and Bodhaditya Banerjee chop each scene down to a hair's breadth till there's no breathing room for the characters. The dialogue scenes are sometimes cut so haphazard hurriedly that it seems like a conversation between robots, one instantly replying to the other's statement without thinking or breathing pause. Same goes for drama-heavy, action-light scenes. Gupta is so insecure about his lack of plot that he gets the editors to snip the placid scenes to a frenzy too, cutting back and forth between close-ups and reactions and unnecessary wides from 2 angles to rev up some pace and tension.
Even Amit Trivedi, Gupta's permanent collaborator and a master composer unlike any other, falters tremendously here. Not only are the songs mediocre at best (Amitabh Bhattacharya's lyrics are disappointing too) but Trivedi's background score lacks his usual insight into the mood of a scene. The score is often at odds with the pacing and motivation of the scenes in the first half, and it gets repetitive, albeit better, in the second half with the tension escalating.
The film is also saddled with a deadfaced, monotonous Arjun Kapoor, who brings absolutely no passion or energy to his character and no peek into his psyche. He ultimately ends up standing there like a massive bodyguard majority of the time, threatening with his bulging muscles and his unimaginatively written dialogues that are intended to inspire whistles instead of yawns. In fact, none of the actors rise beyond the middling material they're given, not even the usually reliable Rajesh Sharma.
As the film meanders to a predictable victory for the Indian team, there is no sense of hard-fought victory from the jaws of defeat. All of Gupta's best works so far (Aamir, No One Killed Jessica, Ghanchakkar) have relied on simple plot setups, but he's had story to back them up and take them in new, unanticipated directions. India's Most Wanted follows the most linear path to its foregone conclusion, never daring to split from the tri-colored formula. Alas, patriotism may sell tickets but a good film it maketh not.