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‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ Is A Well-Made Army Film That Needed To Be Better In This Election Year

  • IWB Post
  •  January 11, 2019

While watching Uri: The Surgical Strike, one must remember that 2019 is not just another year for our country. It’s an election year and we live in troubling, volatile times.

It is hard to watch a film like Uri in isolation because of that, and also the fact that it’s based on real events – the 2016 surgical strike by the Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir a few days after terrorists killed 19 soldiers at the Uri base camp. Everyone is aware of the circumstances before, during, and after the surgical strike, but because the film has fictionalised the main event, we get no insight into what went on in the minds of the soldiers or the people calling the shots. So what exactly do we gain from watching this film?

Right at the start, we are told that Major Vihaan Shergill (Vicky Kaushal) is a national hero who likes to leave none of his soldiers behind, but his ageing mother has Alzheimer’s and he wants to stay with her, so he gets a desk job. Then, a personal tragedy coinciding with national tragedy compels him to go back on the field, though it seems unlikely that a grieving man would get so much authority and control of a dangerous mission. It’s also unlikely that everything would run smoothly in our government, and the Prime Minister (played by Rajit Kapoor) would only be around to ask the most basic questions. But such is the world of this film.

But Vicky Kaushal makes it worth your while. The action sequences, the well-choreographed surgical strike scenes, one gut-wrenching scene where Vihaan silently grieves for a family member uplift the film. If director Aditya Dhar had just used Vicky’s silences more liberally, if he had allowed his lead soldier to have layers that went beyond vengeance, the film might have gone in a different, better direction. The saving grace is that chest-thumping jingoism is used very sparingly in this film, and Paresh Rawal, who plays the fictionalised version of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, gets to do that bit.

Yami Gautam plays an intelligence officer while Kirti Kulhari plays a widow wanting to prove her patriotism to her martyr husband. The two women obviously have very little to do, but they do that with earnestness and conviction. It doesn’t say much about Bollywood that it is entirely possible that they could have been given an even rawer deal.

Uri is a well-made film, but it is also a film that is very clearly telling you how competent and effective our current government is. The director had to consult the Army to make this film, which is perhaps why he hasn’t included several aspects that were made public after the surgical strike, which don’t paint the government in such a positive light. The security lapses at the Uri camp, the fact that the government ignored the warning of a potential terrorist attack, the aftermath and other controversies are never addressed in the film. So if a film is made well but portrays something troubling in our current political climate, is it a good film after all?

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