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How To Catch A Terrorist

Saturday, May 25, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

India’s Most Wanted
Director:
Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Jitendra Shastri and others
Rating: * *

This intelligence officer finally corners the man he has been tracking; he has been warned that pursuers are on the way to the location, but instead of bundling the terrorist into a car and driving away fast, he and the captured man glower at each other and rattle off some bombastic lines.

Raj Kumar Gupta’s India’s Most Wanted (based on a true story) cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a thriller or a step-by-step guide on how to catch a terrorist. The good guy speechifies on patriotism, the bad guy on killing kaafirs. And between the two, they make a potentially thrilling film, verbose and mostly dull.

The work of surveillance and information gathering, must be tedious, but watching a bunch of men walking or driving around, mumbling into cell phones is not in the least exciting, so background music is used to whip up emotion, along with many pretty aerial shots, occasionally giving the proceedings a video game-like feel.

A chameleon like terrorist, Yusuf (Sudev Nair) plants bombs and leaves a trail of death in several Indian cities, but the combined force of Indian intelligence bureaus cannot find the “Ghost Who Bombs” and don’t seem to particularly care about capturing “India’s Most Wanted.” Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor), from Patna, gets a tip from an informer, that Yusuf is in Kathmandu, but the bosses in Delhi shoot down his request for a mission to Nepal.

So he gathers a team of underpaid men as devoted to the country as he is, to put in their own meagre earnings and with the unofficial nod from his immediate superior (Rajesh Sharma), they go to Kathmandu, joined by another team of special ops men, led by Ravi (Bajrangbali Singh). The nine non-descript men in two ordinary SUVs cross the border, with little money, no weapons, no ground support and a clear warning that even if they succeed, there will be nothing in it for them.

They meet an informer called “Friend” (a scene-stealing Jitendra Shastri), and trace their target to a remote place in Nepal, but there is no help from their own people in India, while Pakistan’s ISI operatives swing into action and snap at the heels of the Indians. The elusive terrorist, however, is oblivious of the group hovering aimlessly around his hideout!

Gupta gives the film a realistic look, and except for an unforgivably bad song set in a nightclub, to introduce a minor character, keeps out any distractions—so no romantic interest for Prabhat, no touristy views of Kathmandu. The actors are all unknown, but have the talent, energy and screen presence to make a dead-eyed Arjun Kapoor look completely ineffectual. (The role was probably meant for Ajay Devgn).

The film is earnest and has its merits, which, unfortunately are drowned by its uneven pace and uninspired story-telling. Recent espionage thrillers like Raazi and Romeo Akbar Walter have set a bar that every film about terrorists-and-secret agents has to jump over.

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