The latest in the slew of nationalist films is Uri: The Surgical Strike, starring Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Yami Gautam and Kirti Kulhari. It is based on the September 2016 retaliation surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army in response to the terror attacks at Uri, the army base camp in Kashmir. Vicky plays the role of a dedicated soldier, Vihaan, who is known for his meticulous strategising and planning in missions. After a successful mission, he wishes to retire from army life, as his mother needs him.
Over the years, many Bollywood filmmakers have decided to take the patriotic route and make nationalism-infused dramas. Patriotism is the key to the hearts of the audience and this formula seems to be working fairly well, and box office numbers are proof.
The storyline isn’t entirely unpredictable; we know what will push Vihaan to take up the mission of the surgical strikes against the terrorists.
The second half focuses on the Indian Army planning the attack against the militants. The tone of the film hits a crescendo as India gets ready to teach Pakistan a lesson in bloodshed and violence. Vihaan shouts, “They want Kashmir and we want their heads!” The soldiers holler back in agreement.
The distinctions between India and Pakistan scenes are painfully clear. For one, there’s always the Pakistani flag in the background to show that the scene is taking place in Islamabad. Director Aditya Dhar had earlier said in an interview that there was ‘nothing anti-Pakistan in the film.’ Not on the face of it, maybe. But as they say, the devil lies in the details.
In the film, there is a stark difference between the intelligence meetings in Pakistan as compared to those taking place in India. The officials in the neighbouring country constantly put down India at any chance they get. Pakistani officials are boorish, with some burp-induced humour and are shown willing to drink themselves silly, whereas the Indians are constantly alert and on their toes.
Keeping the affiliations of Uri the film aside (which is a task in itself), it is a decent film for most parts. The first half is far more gripping than the second. Post intermission, the makers themselves seem over-excited, to the point of losing control of the narrative. The line between what’s believable and what’s actually not, becomes blurred. There is actually a scene where Vicky stabs a terrorist one-on-one, while yelling “Indian Army!” At points, guns are thrown aside and we are treated to some good old Bollywood punches and kicks.