URI: The Surgical Strike
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Mohit Raina, Yami Gautam, Kirti Kulhari, Swaroop Sampat, Paresh Rawal, Rajit Kapoor, Rajat Bedi, Mansi Parekh, Ivan Rodgrigues, Yogesh Soman
Director: Aditya Dhar
Rating: * * *
‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ is an imagined account of what was supposed to have transpired in those 11 days. It’s about a clandestine operation, so facts get trumped up by make-believe. The film, inimical to army ethos, may be low-key on the jingoism but it’s grandiloquent posturing is pretty much on the up. ‘Unhe Kashmir Chahiye aur Hamme unka sar’ is not a constant refrain though.
This film opens with heart-stopping action – a terrifying attack by Naga extremists on an Indian Army infantry in Chandel district of Manipur. Days later, the Indian Army retaliates. Dhar’s film moves forward in chapters steadily building up tempo for the set-piece ‘imagined’ action where the same team (albeit with a few additions) moves all the way up north to URI to set up a climactic extermination that is sure to give the faux patriots something to gush about. But the drama is not relegated to the border regions alone.
Dhar’s screenplay though, fails to put forward a logical flow that is unassailable. Para SF military Major Vihaan Singh Shergill (a visibly bulked-up Vicky Kaushal) is given a free hand by the PM (Rajit Kapoor doing a Narendra Modi) and his Chief Security Advisor from IB, (Paresh Rawal looking quite weather-beaten as Ajit Doval) and a novice tech-intern gets recruited to keep an eye in the sky. The lookalike gallery here also includes walk-on dummies of Manohar Parrikar, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley.
The heartbroken orphaned child shouting the regiment cry at the time of her father’s funeral bears close resemblance to the TV grab of Col. M.N.Rai’s (killed in Kashmir) funeral. Vihaan’s stepping down from active combat life following his mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimers’ is a construct used to show the PM in a good light. Dhar also writes-in a ‘Raazi’ moment and there are other irksome bits that make the purpose and sincerity of this effort questionable. Vihaan’s assertion to the PM (no less) that he will return successful in his mission without any casualties sounds altogether pompous and the bypassing of the President (constitutionally appointed head of the armed forces) in all consultations, is pretty much galling.
The second half is very much a clone of ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Dark aerial cinematography, neat editing, spiffy VFX and drone facilitated surveillance capture, make the going quite interesting. The plotting is a little slack but the film is not without realistic moments. Getting Vihaan to indulge in hand combat just when the operation was about to be stitched-up, reeks of herogiri, though.
Eventually it’s the performances that makes this film watchable. Vicky Kaushal’s sincere efforts to live the role shows. URI doesn’t bother to ask tough questions or try to dig deeper than what the establishment tosses out. Its conciliatory tone is rather unforgivable but it’s entertainment value is not. What you see may not be entirely kosher but it’s got the Josh!