Uri movie cast: Vicky Kaushal, Mohit Raina, Paresh Rawal, Rajit Kapoor, Yami Gautam, Kirti Kulhari, Swaroop Sampat
Uri movie director: Aditya Dhar
Uri movie rating: Two stars
That a film about a solider fighting to keep his country safe will be full of valour and ‘desh-bhakti’ is a given. The surgical strikes India undertook in Pakistan are at the heart of this film, and we get all the requisite elements of a ‘war film’: action in the war-zones, hovering helicopters, brave army men and women, cowardly enemies, and the relentless rat-a-tat of machine-guns, the devastation caused by hand grenades, and bodies exploding in a gush of blood.
But because this is a Bollywood film, we get a hand-to-hand combat moment for our hero Major Vihaan Shergill (Kaushal). How else are we to appreciate his bravery? The major and his derring-do commando unit, which includes Captain Karan Kashyap (Raina), spearheads the surgical strikes, and we get a Hollywood-influenced build up: chatter amongst war-room strategists, those who are in-charge of advanced weaponry, and the men who give the orders. A young wet-behind-the-ear nerd and his ‘creation’ causes an old warhorse to say: son, you may have won us the war. Straight out of a Hollywood flick. The female characters, apart from the ailing mum (Sampat), are sketchy, one playing a sleuth (Gautam), another a helicopter pilot (Kulhari), there to support the hero, though it’s nice to see no overt song-and-dance romantic overtones: again, so Hollywood.
Drone technology and sophisticated night-vision devices are all very well but we still can’t have a full-grown hero who doesn’t do ‘do-do haath’ with the baddie. Kaushal is satisfactorily bulked out and does a competent job, as does Raina, with the former getting, expectedly, more screen time to rattle his sabre.
This insistence on hero-giri makes this new film feel old-style. Other Bollywood tropes are present too: revenge, a sick mother, a newly-widowed sister, a little moppet used to throw a manipulative line at us. Action, emotion, drama, it’s all there, beat for beat: more Border than Zero Dark Thirty.
Uri: The Surgical Strike is slickly made, and on the whole keeps you watching despite some clunky passages. It’s always good to have movies in which the soldiers look real, and the conflict is taken seriously, even if the action is buoyed by such dialogues as ‘unhe Kashmir chaihye, humein unka sar’. If that’s not jingoism, I don’t know what is. The Pakistani big-wigs are shown as a bunch of not exactly incompetents, but incapable of matching up to the Indians.
But the timing of the movie’s release is suspect. We are in the buildup to the polls, and in a film where Prime Minister Modi (Kapoor) and his doughty national security advisor Doval (Rawal), have significant screen time, and are seen to be commanding the action, there is no doubt what Uri is intended to do: to tell us that patriotism and nationalism, those stellar virtues which will cement ‘a new India’ vests in these worthies and their faithfuls alone.
If that doesn’t mar the experience of the film, I don’t know what does. For a film about active blood-letting, it is curiously bloodless. There’s almost no tension, nor enough of the rousing goose-bump inducing moments that such films should come armed with to be fully effective. When a character shouts, ‘how’s the josh’, you want to ask: ‘where’s the josh’?