Film: India’s Most Wanted
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Sudev Nair, Amrita Puri, Rajesh Sharma,
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
There are some things you must know from the start about Raj Kumar Gupta’s thriller India’s Most Wanted. It’s not an espionage film. There is no heroine. And there are no songs as such except the Vande Mataram track which as far as the patriotism here goes. Also, there’s no action. Not the kind of action you expect in a Bollywood film based on a real life Intelligence Bureau mission to arrest the country’s most wanted terrorist of the time. That’s because Gupta, who wrote and directed IMW, has kept the film as real as possible. And if you went expecting our IB operative Prabhat Kapoor (Arjun Kapoor) to be a dashing mix of James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hawke and Xander Cage, and to perform all kinds of derring-do, you would come away disappointed.
The film is based on the 2013 counter-terrorism mission by the Intelligence Bureau to capture Indian Mujahideen founder, Yasin Bhatkal. The Islamic terrorist group’s dreaded leader, who was responsible for a number of bombings in the country that killed hundreds, was known as the Ghost Who Bombs for his ability to remain in hiding and conduct these horrific attacks. He was dramatically captured in Nepal and brought back to India to face trial and subsequently sentenced to death. There remains the question about who actually captured Yasin. Was it the Nepal Police as claimed by Wikipedia? Or was he tracked down by Indian intelligence and the arrest effected by Nepal authorities in coordination with the Intelligence Bureau? In Gupta’s story there is no confusion: India’s Most Wanted terrorist was captured by Intelligence Bureau operatives despite some meddling by Nepal’s Police and a deadly threat to foil Yasin’s deportation by Pakistan’s ISI.
Once you know the story there’s no real suspense to the film. What is there in abundance is the thrill. It’s the nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat variety with music to match the moment and mood. Especially with Gupta taking the cinematic liberty to introduce the ISI in a hot chase at the climax that ends with the IB team crossing the Indo-Nepal border to handover Yasin to the National Investigation Agency waiting in strength on the other side. All this is done without a shot being fired because the Indian operatives had no license to carry guns into Nepal. That’s believably what happened. The rest of the film’s a cat-and-mouse game played between subversives, informers and intelligence officers. Arjun Kapoor is as fiercely patriotic as they come. But he’s not Vicky Kaushal’s Major Vihaan Singh of Uri, because this is not a surgical strike, and his josh is different. But Prabhat Kapoor is determined as hell to get back the terror group leader in the face of any opposition. And not strangely, the opposition comes from back home where a reluctant Home Ministry forbids the covert operation in Nepal and so Prabhat Kapoor and his motley team is without backup and funding.
It’s a nice film, thoroughly enjoyable, and you get to see Nepal in some of its pristine natural beauty. Not the way Dev Anand showcased it to us with the hippie culture in 1971 with Hare Rama Hare Krishna but interesting and intriguing all the same. What you also get is an understanding of the shadowy work undertaken by the Intelligence Bureau which even the operatives’ own families are unaware about. Gupta has got all that down wonderfully. He’s even put together a ragtag team of Intelligence Bureau officers who are as they should be – as commonplace as you can find. Arjun Kapoor, however, stands out by his sheer size. But he masks that with as deadpan a cop expression as any policeman in the world will wear. He is earnest in his performance, underplays his emotions, deliver his dialogues minus any dramatics, and does an amazing job of hiding disappointment on a face that has no expression when let down by the country and department. Rajesh Sharma who plays his superior officer in the Intelligence Bureau is a treat. Here is an actor who makes a big impact with a small role. When Arjun Kapoor’s not on the screen, he is, and they keep the narrative crisp and smooth by passing the ball between them. Perhaps the best scene in the film is in the confrontation between Yasin (played by Malayalam actor Sudev Nair) and Prabhat. When the terrorist smiles. You know what Death looks like then.
PEEPINGMOON GIVES India's Most Wanted 3.5 MOONS