I had enjoyed watching ‘Kal Ho Na Ho‘ – Nikhil Advani’s directorial debut but seriously disliked the next few films he made, the worst being ‘Chandni Chowk to China‘! The first promo I watched of ‘D Day’, his latest offering, looked promising and an invitation to the preview of the film gave me the opportunity to watch it without being influenced in any way by newspaper reports.
The new PVR ICX at Andheri is quite nice. The slightly congested lobby gives way to beautifully plush seating inside. An extensive selection of snacks and beverages are available for patrons. The restrooms however seem to have already borne the brunt of the population and have locks that do not lock and doors that do not shut quite properly!
D Day is the story of four protagonists, with varying backgrounds and a common mission that brings them together. The film opens with a sequence that can leave you dizzy. The Most Wanted Man in India (no prizes for guessing who!) is attending a wedding in Karachi and four people try to abduct him from the hotel. This is Operation Goldman, an initiative by R&AW, India.
The Most Wanted Man is Iqbal Seth (Rishi Kapoor), a character so obviously Dawood Ibrahim that calling him anything else seems futile. I will however stick with ‘Goldman’ – his code name in the film. He is always accompanied by his nephew, imaginatively called Bhanja (Chandan Roy Sanyal)!! The four protagonists are Captain Rudra Pratap Singh (Arjun Rampal), Wali Khan (Irrfan Khan), Zoya Rehman (Huma Qureshi) and Aslam (Aakash Daahiya). Wali Khan has been in Karachi for years, runs a legitimate barber shop and is married with a son who is the apple of his eye. Rudra is the enigma, with seemingly no past and no emotions. He decides to shack up with a prostitute (Shruti Haasan) in the dingy red light district, in order to escape attention. Zoya flies in from London; she represents a university and visits Pakistan quite frequently. Aslam too has spent some time in Karachi, and also managed to get into the good books of the Goldman gang by killing a rival gang member. Ashwini Rao (Nasser) is the R&AW Chief
D Day is a taut, racy thriller that relies on this pace when logic fails and trust me, it does fail a couple of times! The flashbacks establishing the characters are woven very well into the narrative. Each character, however small is believable and nobody seems out of place. The bureaucrats are almost perfect in essaying their roles. The PM’s role is an obvious caricature but still does not take away from the film. As in most films, there is a lot that could have been done better. I did not like the last few minutes of superfluous preachiness – the film would have been a lot better without it.
What I liked in D Day…………
The story – It was refreshing to see a film that is not overly patriotic and does not try to position Pakistan as the culprit and India as the injured innocent at every stage. The ruthlessness of gangs; Goldman lapsing into Marathi from time to time; conundrum for the agents when they realize that their own country is trying to eliminate them after a failed operation; the human relationships within; elevate this from just a mindless action movie into a very watchable thriller.
The direction – Nikhil Advani has given us a gritty look into the world of intrigue and espionage without over dramatizing or resorting to the ridiculous. The chases, the violence, the twists in the tale and subtleties of relationships are brought out well. The sequence in the film featuring Arjun Rampal walking up the steps after a tragedy is possibly one of the most poignant ones I have ever watched. The almost Tarantino like sequence, mixing violence and music was a revelation.
The performances – Irrfan Khan is brilliant as usual. It is always a pleasure to see an actor who can emote without any effort. Sreeswara who plays Irrfan’s wife is fantastic and manages to touch your heart in the small flashes of screen time she gets. Huma Qureshiis believable but could have probably been used better. Aakash Daahiya does a very competent job as does Shruti Haasan and Nasser. Rishi Kapoor in his rose tinted glasses shows flashes of brilliance but hams too much towards the end. Chandan Roy Sanyal is a good watch as the psychotic gun-toting nephew. The surprise package for me in the film was Arjun Rampal who I have always found gorgeous and wooden. But he stunned me with his understated, smouldering performance. The flat stare, menacing body language and rage simmering just below the surface – all blend in perfectly to make him a strong contender for the best angry man after Amitabh Bachchan! Hats off to Nikhil Advani for using him better than anyone has till date.
The soundtrack – Though not highlighted, the music in the film deserves a special mention. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have again come up with an unconventional soundtrack that remains true to the essence of the film. Sufi, quawali, haunting soul and semi classical blends beautifully with the settings and characters.
Watch D Day if you are in the mood to enjoy a thriller without critiquing too much. Do not watch it if you have a weak heart or a weak stomach.
Copyright© Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa July 2013