India’s Most Wanted (IMW) begins with a ‘thank you’ card to Shah Rukh Khan. In one of the earliest scenes, we are shown how the Bollywood superstar was detained in an American airport in 2009. For people who are aware about “India’s Osama”, which is referred to in the Raj Kumar Gupta directorial, the connect is evident. You know why Shah Rukh was detained thrice in seven years by American airport officials. For others, the payoff that comes during the end credits might be a tad underwhelming, just like the rest of the film.
IMW is a fictionalised version of the inspiring true story of how a group of Special officers from the Intelligence Bureau and Bihar Police caught Yasin Bhatkal, the mastermind behind various bombings across India. The on-screen translation of the hunt, which involved three countries, and multiple investigative agencies, leaves a lot to be desired.
Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor) leads a motley group of officers, who assign themselves to the mission to capture Yusuf for — wait for it — ‘desh pyaar’. There are multiple references to how these men have put their lives on the line for the safety of India, without any kind of recognition. Despite the core plot and the present political climate, kudos to Raj Kumar for keeping the jingoism firmly in check. However, IMW falls flat in certain places that almost pushes it to a place of no redemption.
Although most of the characters have interesting facets, none of them, barring an informant, are fleshed out enough to make you invested in their plights. You are never made to wait with bated breath as the film unravels. Most of the scenes that involve intelligence gathering in IMW feels more convenient than smart. Even the hurdles in capturing Yusuf are the done-to-death tropes like red-tapism and incompetent officers in other countries (here, Nepal and Pakistan).
However, what hurts IMW the most is that the film, which is about five Indian officers capturing a dreaded terrorist with neither weapons nor government support, picks up steam only in the flourishing final act.
It’s interesting how filmmakers are finally telling stories involving non-conventional characters. Though we are being bombarded with films like Baby, Naam Shabana, Raazi, Aiyaary and Parmanu every other month, the novelty, thankfully, hasn’t worn off. IMW is peppered with a few genre-bending scenes and impressive dialogues.
It is not every day that a protagonist calls his senior officer, and says he is nervous about the mission. We don’t often see the hero run away without a fight from three henchmen/enemy operatives. Though Raj Kumar’s overall writing is inconsistent, the dialogues hit the mark frequently, especially the ones highlighting the dangers of red-tapism, and the inefficacies of going by the rulebook all the time.
Arjun’s straight-face works well for his no-strings-attached character that anchors the film, which has an ensemble cast with both known and unknown names from across film industries. There are no standout performers in IMW, and in this case, it furthers the cause of the film that is about the various faceless and nameless people, who constantly safeguard the country.
“Credit chaahiye toh cricket join karo,” says Rajesh Sharma to Prabhat and co after the successful mission. We don’t know who these officers were, and how many lives were saved because of their bravado. But, what’s the probability that despite Indian cinema churning out such films regularly, we won’t quite remember these sacrifices? High, sir.
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta