It’s been a mystery for ages. Kapil Verma’s film was initially titled Om - The Battle Within. Bizarrely, with no apparent provocation, it was changed to Rashtra Kavach Om. What was existential (‘battle within’) was thus transformed into patriotic. I’m glad this trend hadn’t caught on two decades ago. Imagine Gadar: Ek Desh-Prem Katha or Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in Hindu Rashtra.
The producer is Ahmed Khan, so plot summaries are damned. Here’s the gist: supersoldier Om (Aditya Roy Kapur) leads a one-man raid aboard the ‘Battleship’ (Potemkin?). However, at the last minute, he takes a bullet to the head and is cast off. He wakes up several months later in a safe house. His mind, like a defunct hard drive, has been wiped clean. Just a single file persists in a traumatic childhood memory, involving Dev (Jackie Shroff), a rogue scientist. The connection, you ask? Dev is the daddy, and Om is his issue.
The first half is a dry exposition. Sanjana Sanghi, as Om’s comrade/love interest/nurse, retells thrilling stories in a sad monotone. She is no better as an audience: a revelation that should technically blow her mind simply earns a blank stare. I was going to doze off if not for talented actors like Ashutosh Rana and Prakash Raj holding up their end. Prakash, in particular, is a treat. “Dammit…dammit…dammit…dammit,” he shouts, perhaps realising this isn’t Baaghi 4.
Jackie Shroff looks menacing peering into a blue holographic scanner. It’s the best visual effect in the film, far better than a fake missile that zaps through the screen. Dev, it turns out, was building a ‘Kavach’—an advanced defence system to ward off nuclear attacks. In effect, it beams a shimmering energy shield around a moderate radius and appears to fit into a suitcase. In the film’s funniest scene, one that could easily double as a contraception ad, Dev holds up the case to a shirtless Om and says ‘Kavach!’ Hold that rocket, boy.
In a flashback, we’re introduced to Om’s old teammates, complete with call signs and individual skills. Yet what does it matter if the action is squarely set on one man? This is a late-action showcase for Aditya (the makers, I fear, are so convinced of his base audience that they practically shoehorn a drinking scene into this film). Aditya can fight—albeit in a swirl of wire work—though his acting chops remain perennially suspect. Eating a bowl of kheer, in an emotional scene, he embellishes where a dry smile would suffice.
The mass film, action thriller, soap opera… Rashtra Kavach Om disappoints on all fronts.
Film: Rashtra Kavach Om
Director: Kapil Verma
Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjana Sanghi, Jackie Shroff, Ashutosh Rana, Prakash Raj, Prachee Shah Paandya