Director: Nikhil Advani
The Indian Express rating: ***
But for the fact that Advani can’t resist ending his film with a salute to the supposedly restless,impatient and blood-thirsty new India,D-Day is a surprising package from a director known so far largely for harmless,fail-safe stories with big stars.
Okay,so the plot is essentially about R&AW sending agents abroad to capture India’s most-wanted terrorist — a guy so obviously Dawood Ibrahim that they don’t have to call him that,just allude to it in the title. That’s preposterous to begin with but what’s heartening is that Advani,who also co-wrote the screenplay,actually tries to make it less so. Plots such as this,especially in mainstream Bollywood and in this blockbuster season of Hollywood,demand and are extended a significant amount of cinematic licence. Within that context,Advani,whether it’s in the actors he fills the corners of his scenes with or the way he goes about connecting the dots,appears to care.
The Indian prime minister,who attends calls from ‘Madam’ at crucial junctures,is an obvious caricature. However,not the R&AW Director Ashwini (played by Nasser) and the cultural attache in the Indian Embassy in Islamabad,both south Indians in an acknowledgement of their strength in this service,nor the Home Ministry bureaucrat bringing the weight of his post down upon them.
Irrfan not surprisingly lifts his role above the mundane,but as an Indian spy based in Karachi for the past 10 years,he has a background rich enough to include an unsuspecting wife (an arresting Shriswara) and son,whom he loves dearly. His dilemma and heartbreak as he leaves them are nicely woven into the main story.
The other romance plays out between Rampal,a daredevil R&AW recruit and trained military man,and a prostitute he visits in a Karachi brothel,played by Haasan. Advani realises the acting limitations of this duo and so their exchange is limited to glances,lovemaking and some beautiful songs. It works,especially in the stunning episode when Haasan is found brutally murdered and Rampal walks up to her room imagining her torture as playing out in front of his and our eyes (if only Rampal was able to do more than try look stunned).
Rishi Kapoor as the Dawood-like Iqbal Seth aka Goldman is uninhibited,as he has learnt to be in his second coming,and manages to get the right balance between being aware of both his powers and his mortality.
Qureshi is the explosives expert in the R&AW team and does an efficient job of the little she gets to do. Dahiya,as a small-town Mumbai criminal roped in to infiltrate into Seth’s inner circle,on the other hand,goes a long way with his little role. Sanyal as Seth’s nephew is another cog in the wheel,but while over the top,grows on you more than you expect him to.
As is the curse of such films,having set up the story nicely,particularly after their plans get botched up and the Indian agents are driven into hiding and certain death in Karachi,the screenplay — the credits include Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair — falls back upon tested heroism and dramatics.
Parallels have been drawn with A Mighty Heart,even Zero Dark Thirty,but that’s only because all three films are set in what passes for Pakistan. However,whether it’s the markets where a shootout is picturised,the chawl-like hostel where the four agents hide out,or the wedding of Seth’s son,D-Day‘s imagining of Karachi is entirely Indian and far more intimate. Advani should take a bow,as for the most part,it works.