Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
The story of a five-member team of intelligence officers embarking on a top-secret mission to track a wanted international terrorist is an interesting premise for a thriller. Raj Kumar Gupta, who has made interesting thrillers such as Aamir, No One Killed Jessica and Raid, tries to look at the mastermind behind serial bomb blasts in many Indian cities like Patna, Pune, Delhi and other cities that shook the nation between 2008 and 2012. His latest, India’s Most Wanted, is about most wanted terrorist Yusuf, and takes us back to the gruesome days of umpteen human lives getting lost in the blasts. It doesn’t take long for us to decipher that Yusuf’s character is actually based on terrorist Abdul Qureishi of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), also called India’s Osama Bin Laden.
When officer Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor) in Patna gets only four days from his boss (Rajesh Sharma) to reaffirm information about his lead on the serial blast instigator, Yusuf (Sudev Nair), neither he nor his team show any signs of flinching. Instead, they take full advantage of the Indian government’s slow and tardy investigation and decide to take the case in their hands. Their track record has been good. This time, their only concern is — which they either mention matter-of-factly, or complain about meekly — the abysmal funding that all could pool in for such a huge operation. “We haven’t even been reimbursed for our last operation,” complains one of them. While all the planning is done, we also see blasts in various cities in quick succession, even as government authorities are seen reeling under pressure to counter and nab the criminals. So exasperated they seem to be at their failure to crack the case that the Prime Minister asks his team to listen to bhajans instead.
Prabhat has little information available on Yusuf. The only thing the team knows about him is thanks to his face-covered picture they have which reveal just his bloodshot piercing light eyes. There is also no scientifically researched material that the team is counting on; it’s mostly their instincts and conjectures that work to their advantage. Of course, without any strategy, their strong and unwavering commitment in all its earnestness is what gets them going.
All those lovers of the thriller and espionage genre films that produce thrills love the usual cat-and-mouse chase customarily associated with such cinema. Here, Gupta spends more and more time establishing the whereabouts of Yusuf who is hiding in Nepal that makes viewers’ engagement least absorbing.
Despite a disclaimer and facts rolling out in the end giving us details of the veracity of the film’s characters, there are places where you wish there was more authentic appeal to the film. Whether the informer in Nepal is a spent force or not, with unnecessary scenes on how to ascertain his credentials, or how on earth an unarmed gang of men is going to challenge a dreaded terrorist are irrelevant factual errors that don’t really add any layers to the two-hour film. Rather, it gets all the more drab. The only reason you want to carry on — and not just because of a lack of choice — is because you want to believe that something attention-grabbing is about to happen. Or that something worthwhile will go down in the finale.
But the greatest flaw in the film is its lead hero — Arjun Kapoor. Sloppy and bulky, he looks unfit to be the sleuth that he tries too hard to be. Besides, this frustratingly slow film that tries to be overly broad in scope has its pointless contrivances too. Though there is no romantic angle thrown in, redundant characters trying to look suspicious make for a boring two hours. If the film was trying to be clever, you don’t get it. Even after the film is over!
At times, I thought I even missed out on an important smart one-liner, but was quick to dismiss it off as just another one of those non-sequiturs that are best ignored. Besides the opening lines in the film, the only time I craned my neck to not allow a single line to be missed was when there was a mention of Shah Rukh Khan’s (his moniker figures prominently even during the rolling credits!) name crops up, referencing it to the harrowing episodes of his getting detained in the US at the hands of immigration authorities a few years back....