Cast: Rajkumar Rao, Rajesh Tailang, Blake Allan, Keval Arora, Nisha Geoege, Asif Gillani, Timothy Ryan Hickernell, Ravi Khanna
Director: Hansal Mehta
Rating: * * * *
A searing biopic that has Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Rajkumar Rao), cold-blooded British terrorist of Pakistani descent, famed for kidnappings, financing 9/11 and the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, in it’s sights, this Hansal Mehta creation is a superbly crafted cinematic document about a nihilistic ideology that is cultivated by malignant philosophy.
He was well educated (completed 2 years at LSE), well spoken, at ease in social situations, comfortably well-off, yet Omar chose to embrace terrorism as a means to resolve all perceived evils in the world against his beleaguered community. Hansal Mehta deliberately steers clear of giving meaning to Omar’s convoluted reasoning – instead he paints a chilling portrait of a sociopath premeditatedly going about his business of killing without remorse or a flicker of conscience. Mehta’s take on terrorism is stark and hard-hitting. To him, as depicted in Omerta, a terrorist cannot be sympathised with.
While his role in various terrorist strikes across the world is not written in absolute terms yet, Omar is shown rising to kingpin status in terrorist organisations like the Kashmiri Harkat-ul-Ansar and Al-Qaeda. The introductory scenes suggest his living a privileged life beside a timid, easily persuaded father (Keval Arora). He claims to have been radicalised on a trip to Bosnia and after a messy kidnapping effort and jail term, wins a reprieve through an exchange for hostages aboard a skyjacked Air India flight. By 2000, he is a confidant of the ISI, a leader of repute in Karachi and gets involved in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Timothy Ryan Hickernell). Omar’s mental imbalance is already visible in his trigger-happy temper and vicious acts. But it’s when Daniel Pearl is butchered that we see the depth of insanity that has ravaged his mind and personality.
Mehta’s non-linear narrative is tellingly paced, has interestingly poised juxtapositions of the real with the enacted and is edited with a purposefulness that allows for an unadulterated segue of factual assimilation. Ishaan Chhabra’s stimulating background score is both ominous and unrelenting in it’s efforts to keep the viewer affected throughout. Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s cinematography is also complementary to the Director’s viewpoint. Though Hansal’s accomplished craft is what gives this cinematic rendition a sharp perspective it’s actually Rajkumar Rao who lends efficacy to the entire effort. His portrayal of Omar Saeed is so torturously real that you wouldn’t think of him as any other. This is a compelling, never-to-be-missed, true blue effort.