– Yaser Khan
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Rajesh Tailang, Blake Allan, Keval Arora, Nisha George, Asif Gilani, Timothy Ryan Hickernell, Ravi Khanna
Director: Hansal Mehta
The actor-director pair of Rajkummar Rao and Hansal Mehta collaborate for the 5th time to narrate the story of a dreadful terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh through their film ‘Omertà’ after having delivered critically acclaimed masterpieces like ‘Citylights’, ‘Shahid’, ‘Aligarh’ and ALTBalaji’s ‘Bose: Dead/Alive’. The film has garnered appreciation at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, the Mumbai Film Festival, Florence Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival and very recently New York Film Festival. The film releases on 4th May 2018.
Story: ‘Omertà’ traces the journey of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (played by Rajkummar Rao), a British terrorist of Pakistani descent. He belongs from an upper middle class British existence who is graduating from the London School of Economics and leaves his education behind in the aspiration to better the conditions of Muslims in Bosnia but takes the path of radicalism to put the West in its place. He moves to Pakistan where he shifts alliance to the terrorist groups fighting against India in Kashmir. He moves to India in Delhi with pseudo name where he lures and kidnaps foreign nationals to make videos and threaten the governments of their respective countries of how their actions are affecting their citizens. He gets caught and is put in Tihar jail where he’s seen practicing extremism. He gets released in am exchange program where he’s identified as a militant and return to Pakistan. At the training camp, he is invited to be an ISI agent where he’s allegedly seen conducting workshops for one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists Osama Bin Laden and is linked to the 9/11 attacks. He is also shown to be the mastermind behind the kidnapping and subsequent murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. He was captured and is said to be in jail for the act in Pakistan. It’s also said he made two hoax calls to the governments of both India and Pakistan during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and was said to be one of the handlers behind the whole operation, guiding the activities of Kasab and company from jail. Omerta is a fictionalised account of his life. The film takes you on a journey from what triggered him to become a terrorist and the how he’s contributed to the most deadliest crimes to place all over the world.
Rajkummar Rao establishes the fact that he’s the best actor of the current lot in Bollywood and a gem of an actor who needs to be preserved. From being empathetic to horrific, there are layers to his character that make you forget that you’re watching an actor perform. He just takes the cake.
Actor Keval Arora as his father is brilliant too. Rajkummar and he have a natural chemistry and his denial of his son being who he is, is quite eventful.
Timothy Hitkernell who plays Daniel Pearl is also commendable in his part. He represents the other side of the world who is not willing to put their foot down against dreadful terrorists like Omer. These emotions reflect through his eyes.
Music and Dialogues: The music by Ishaan Chhabra is quite intriguing and gives the film a grip. However, it slightly inches towards the stereotypical side with its Arabian influence. There’s no scope for a song especially tally because the film is to the point and crisp. The dialogues are intense and some so moving that you constantly question the mindset and ideology of the protagonist. ‘Bloody G*****’ (referred to the ‘Father Of The Nation’) is a punch that Omer throws just by looking at the Indian currency, shocking and thought provoking, isn’t it?
Direction: Hansal Mehta is the master of dark political thrillers and there’s no denying, he’s the best we have for that genre. He maintains a dark tone for a man one can never empathize with even if his initial agenda was to serve the victims of a civil war. As the journey moves ahead, it becomes more and more disturbing. Although it’s an unauthorized documentary, for the audiences who expect drastic twists and turns or any sort of entertaining element, maybe left with a tad bit of disappointment. The film gets a little boring but the narrative couldn’t get any better because it’s a story that had to be said in a manner that it’s said through this film. The transition of Omer from being a civil war victim empathizer to a radical terrorist possibly needed more time to sink in with the audiences. However, the film goes onto educate you so much despite you having closely followed the world affairs that Omer Saeed was involved in and Rajkummar Rao’s performance helps in truly understanding the evil within him. And the scene were he brutally murders the character of Daniel Pearl, goosebumps and uneasiness is what you shall feel!
The editing by Aditya Warrior cuts the film down to one and a half hours with no scope of an interval which shall be something very unique for the Indian audiences watching a Hindi film. Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s cinematography manages to keep the audiences captivated, be it the lanes of Karachi or Delhi and the beauty of Kashmir and Afghanistan being surrendered to the darkness that comes with radical militants. What’s really interesting is this concept and story was brought to Hansal Mehta by actor Mukul Dev who’s made his presence felt with Television and Films.
Cinespeaks Verdict: The film accounts the commencement and rise of India’s and eventually the world’s most wanted, if you’re someone who enjoys biopics and don’t mind *NOT* being hit emotionally with every film that you view, then you can definitely watch the film this weekend. Cinespeaks gives 3 out of 5 stars to ‘Omertà’.