Movie Review: D-DAY (2013)
Bollywood movies are thought of as being a step behind Hollywood movies, when it comes to a direct comparison of all genres on an international stage. Sure, there are regional work in other industries of India and other independent cinema that are garnering a lot of attention, however, originally interesting movies always seem to be beyond the grasp of the the mainstream Bollywood Industry. D-DAY is a movie that works to create an interesting, riveting and original story that was made by and within the commercial mainstream. Here is my Movie Review…
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
D-DAY is Director Nikhil Advani’s 6th film in a career ranging from ‘holy shit terrible’ to ‘jaw dropingly creative’. I’m glad to say that D-DAY falls in the latter, as a unique and dramatic thriller set against the backdrop of the Indian spy world. But unlike most other Bollywood attempts at the genre, D-DAY does not glorify, polish or dress up the world with slick swagger or ‘agents’ that resemble models, all attempt to mimic a Hollywood standard of what they think the spy genre is. This movie is gritty, real and not a all embellished beyond the necessary.
Screwing with the linear narrative format, the story opens with the ultimate ‘mission’ already started, but, obviously out of context for us, given that we haven’t gone through the pre-requisite mission briefing that is obligatory for every spy movie. But this technique works brilliantly to hook the audience in and keep us engaged from the first frame. All the cast is present, the game is afoot, and we have no idea what the hell is going on. Going back into the past, the narrative switches it up at an appropriate moment of suspense, to catch us up on everything that’s happened thus far.
The story of D-DAY revolves around the extraction of a high priority terrorist residing in Pakistan, who is responsible for some of the most heirnious terrorist attacks against India, back to the country to stand trial for all his crimes. The timing for this operation comes when a sleeper Indian intelligence Agent, Wali Khan, who is embedded deep within Pakistan, finds an opportunity to capture the man topping the most wanted list of India. Khan, played by Irfan Khan, has been undercover for years, going so far as to even marrying and having a child, in order to maintain his cover. Its an intense portrayal for Irfan, given the tugging of the heartstrings that invevitably comes when duty & family come into conflict. On the verge of being called back home to India, Wali encounters a chance to catch the terrorist, played beautifully by Rishi Kapoor, and thus sets into motion the entire story of the film, as other Agents are called in, a team is formed and a plan is hatched to bring the criminal to justice.
Where D-DAY differs from other Indian films of this genre, is in its treatment of the story and the subject matter. Never do any of the characters veer off into melodramatic patriotic rants of nonsense. Never does the story establish an ‘us-versus-them’ bias that most Indian army movies establish against Pakistan. Even the character of Wali Khan, who has gone as far as creating a family for the sake of duty, is treated with respect and never becomes a poster boy for the Indian Military. The most displays of Indian Patriotism comes from Nasser, who plays Ashwini Rao, the Intelligence director who is calling the shots from India, trying to support his team behind enemy lines. But even then, the dialogue coming from the uber straight laced face of Nasser commands attention, not scoffs.
While the story is about this Indian team of Agents behind enemy lines, trying to start an operation to capture a criminal who has the full support of the Pakistani Military, writers Nikhil ADvani, Ritesh Shah (no relation) and Suresh Nair still make room for the emotional, and man does this film get emotional. Pulling off an intensely dangerous covert operation, complete with action and suspense is not only handled expertly by the director, but the film has such great moments of soulful depth as well, that it proportionately balances out the more in your face action moments. D-DAY also features one of the best in-movie songs I’ve ever seen, with the song `Alvida` played over a montage sequence that has the ability to make one cringe and tear up all at the same time.
The performances are truly amazing here, from the most veteran of actors to the young talent, all of whom leave you in awe. Arjun Rampal may seem like the obvious choice in a spy movie given the typical exploitation of his physique and good looks, but Rampal here plays a cold and heartless loose-canon type of Agent, who is only good at his job, and nothing else. While shacking up with a prostitute in a nearby brothel to maintain his cover, Rampal’s Rudra, develops feelings for her, but things don’t end up as they expect. The prostitute, played by Shruti Hassan, doesn’t do much, but she’s effective in her brief role, sporting an obvious scar across her face, which adds to the fragility, yet reslience of her character. Huma Qureshi is so good here in a role which is a complete departure from other roles thus far. With a few more years of experience Qureshi can become a talented actress to be reckoned with. Playing a female agent who isn’t just there to balance out the gender quota, Qureshi’s Zoya has to juggle her dangerous career with a relationship as well. Irfan Khan is amazing as always, having the most work to do as a man caught between two countries, two loyalties; one to his country, and another to his own family and his performance here is heartbreaking. The scene stealer though, has to be Rishi Kapoor, who seems to be becoming very comfortable in stepping out of his area of expertise to dabble in some pretty uncharacteristic roles. After his turn as villain in AGNEEPATH (2012), Kapoor is back as Iqbal Seth in D-DAY, and is he ever loathsome. A criminal who merely blinks at the order of murdering hundreds as part of a terrorist operation, comparing the action as being ‘bad for business’ is the ruthless-ness that Kapoor brings to this role and it’s amazing to watch. The scenes with him and Rampal & Khan are that much more delectable.
D-DAY excels where most films of this genre in Indian cinema have failed thus far. No polish and no shine, but the raw emotionality of undercover agents going through such emotionally traumatic situations are captured perfectly. The distinction of duty and loyalty aren’t put on a pedestal but rather shown as harsh realities of choosing a side. The softness of human frailty is balanced beautifully by Nikhil Advani with the adequate gun-play and explosions that makes a movie such as this be accepted into the mainstream. The action isn’t the best, but the story and performances overwhelm any shortcoming in Advani’s execution of these scenes. D-DAY is quite possible the best dramatic spy thriller that been created in the last decade.