Releasing a ‘based on true stories’ heroic Indian police movie on Independence day, starring one of the biggest heartthrobs of the film industry – hard to mess up, right? Well, you’d be surprised.

Rating – 3 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐

Kal Ho Na Ho director Nikhil Advani definitely has a way with his films, they guarantee immense satisfaction to the itch for comfort they intelligently create. In this case, in spite of executing a unique approach to an uncommon intriguing tale, the only thing going on in my head as I walked out of the theatre was “That was good, but…something was missing!”. Was it the itch, was it the lack of satisfaction, or both?

A recount of the very controversial Operation Batla House, which took place on 19th September 2008, wherein Delhi Police’s Special Cell team, led by ACP Sanjay Kumar (John Abraham), carried out a shootout at L-18 Batla House to target a group of young boys known to be operational IM members. A fake encounter or a brave step towards eliminating terrorism? Sanjay must prove the purpose of his actions and face some majorly demoralizing consequences.

The film commenced with a slow rise followed by an exponential escalation in pace and intensity. With a greatly sluggish first half, a big chunk of screen time was used up in setting up the story, which neither helped the audience prepare for the bumpy ride to come, nor aided the poor articulations. Possibly succumbing to poor timing, the movie’s beat was unable to match its story accurately. Having said that, Batla House definitely (more than) compensated for in its post-interval segment by multiplying the speed X10 and diving straight into a riveting action-packed political-thriller zone.

Ek terrorist ko maarne ke liye sarkaar jo rakam deti hai, usse zyaada toh ek trffic police hawaldar ek hafte mein kama sakta hai!”

Making clever use of a contentious anti-terrorism narrative, involving popular patriotic themes, this Nikhil Advani directorial also strategized some delicately sketched out relations to the story’s advantage. The zestful companionship between Sanjay Kumar and fellow officer KK (Ravi Kishan), in particular, charged up the film’s emotional baggage, adding another layer of motive to protagonist John Abraham’s thinking and subsequent doings. Sanjay’s failing married life with wife Nandita (Mrunal Thakur), though, was depicted rather superficially and failed to fulfil its original intention of creating another dimension of complexity in Sanjay’s life.

Hottie John Abraham undoubtedly turned the tables around after a disappointing Romeo Akbar Walter early on this year – despite looking dapper in his police ki wardi and glasses, he pretty much pulled off a one-man show this time by staying 200% true to his character from start to end even without an appropriate supporting cast. From experiencing horrific PTSD episodes to cracking those public-approved one-liners during a court case, John grabbed your gaze (and not just in an eye-candy way) and simply refused to let go! On a side note, seeing the stunner Nora Fatehi do more than just O Saki Saki was a breath of fresh air.

A mentally-draining yet worthwhile watch that could have certainly benefitted from some hard-hitting meat. Regardless, it’s best to consider the film as an investment in learning about a controversial national topic as opposed to a waste of time due to squandered potential.

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Posted by:The Cine Surgeon

Diu Somani, The CineSurgeon, is a student of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Diu has two main loves, animals and Bollywood.