Robbie Grewal’s espionage film makes you give a deep thought on what it takes to be an anonymous spy
Look back at Bollywood and you’ll find numerous films made about or set against the backdrop of 1971 Indo-Pak war. What sets them all apart is the treatment and angle to offer. Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW) is also one such entrant to the coveted list where it delves into the world of informers and spies, working selflessly for the national security. More than them working for the nation, this one’s about their belonging to the country and what does the nation do when the cover goes off. But yes, it doesn’t impress fully.
Said to be inspired by true events, a banker Romeo (John Abraham) is recruited by R&AW and asked to disguise as Akbar and Walter among various other disguises in PoK, during 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Written by Grewal himself, the film at first glance only seems a very well researched one. Given the dramatization and creative liberties on offer as added inputs, the story is layered. But the moment you start to cherish the script, the loose screenplay starts to wither.
Mind you, its a dialogue and information heavy film that requires your keen attention at all times. But even after channelizing your energies, the film on the whole fails to engage you, in the first half in particular. Things happen too quick and very easily, so much so that it feels childish. The biggest reason why this happens is lack of human emotions, not able to make the audience relate. The first half is especially dull and low where the film makes some genuine sense only in the second half.
What the writers especially must be credited for is that there is no jingoistic attempt made at any point. While one’s love for the country is shown, no attempt has been made to tarnish other countries. Also, as the film nears its end, more than feeling proud for your country (which is obviously given), your hearts are wrenched for the spies and informers and those fighting on a daily basis to secure the nation; and this is where the film finds its true meaning.
The film does have its moments, where you are filled with pride and valor at the same time. But those involving unreasonable boredom too are many, dampening the appeal. Unnecessary romantic moments take you away from the plot including two songs.
John Abraham suits very well in the role. His minimal expressions in general match perfectly with the plot here. He has a variety of avenues to perform here where he’s in disguise in different ways at different points, and he shines in each one of them. In fact, given a choice, you wouldn’t even want anybody else to fit in the role.
Jackie Shroff is good, and brings out his signature charm in the character. He’s classy. Mouni Roy on the other hand is very good, as an actress especially. Raghubir Yadav is good, but clearly underutilized.
Alka Amin as RAW’s mother brings out the struggles of a mother very well. Sikandar Kher in a small but impactful role is impressive.
Music is just okay for such a film. As an album, the songs don’t justify the entire plot. Background score by Hanif Shaikh stands out in particular. For a film like this, correct work on score has really made a lasting impression heightening the feel of the film.
Cinematography by Tapan Tushar Basu is outstandingly brilliant. Especially in the dimly lit scenes or those involving action and trickery, the camera plays wonderfully giving you the best thrill possible. Production design is cinematic, real, and suited for the period.
Editing by Nilesh Girdhar could be so much more. While the writing should have incorporated more endearing elements, editing also could have lifted this one up on the narratine front. The film bores in a major part, while it also becomes preditable in some portions.
Since 2008 release Mukhbiir, there have been films about R&AW and their spies but haven’t dived as deep as in this John Abraham starrer. This one here is a strong piece on paper. The magic isn’t maintained when the same pages go to screen. Its the thin and half-hearted screenplay that has to be blamed. Fittingly calling out to become a citizen worth fighting and sacrificing the life for, the film although set in 1971, makes you give a deep thought. Even with some brilliant moments especially the last shot, the impact doesn’t quite hit you. A decent one time watch.