Till before last year, we knew Vicky Kaushal as the young and devastated Deepak Kumar from Masaan. But last year, with four terrific performances (in Love Per Square Foot, Sanju, Raazi and Manmarziyaan) to his credit, Kaushal has proved that he is more than just that. So when I walked into Uri: The Surgical Strike, I knew I was in for something. The entire air around me said that, and I was pretty sure that an actor of Kaushal’s calibre would deliver.
Uri: The Surgical Strike is based on the 2016 Indian Army’s surgical strikes on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as a retaliation for the Uri attack. When you watch the film as a layman, you don’t see the blurred boundaries between what actually happened and what director Aditya Dhar makes you believe in. War movies coming out of Indian Cinema aren’t all geniuses, they hardly get it right. But there are points, especially in the first half that Dhar gets on point. It is when he forays into the second half that he loses his plot and the editing required a more mature hand. But, you don’t find yourself complaining so much. And that is not the biggest problem of Uri.
But what I really appreciate in Uri is that while the women stay in the background, they don’t ‘suffer’ in the background and aren’t just used as mere flowerpots to the plot’s convenience.
And what shines the most (technically) is the cinematography! What stunning work!
The greatest asset of Uri: The Surgical Strike are the actors Dhar puts together. We’ll come to Vicky Kaushal a little later. But let’s just take a moment to praise and pat the back of debutante actor, Mohit Raina, who plays Major Karan Kashyap. He makes Kashyap look so effortless that you refuse to believe that this is a debut performance. Both Paresh Rawal (as Govind Bhardwaj) and Rajit Kapoor as the Prime Minister of India (loosely based on Narendra Modi) are such fine actors and in shows in the little they have been given to do. The women, Yami Gautam, Kirti Kulhari, Mansi Parekh and Swaroop Sampat don’t have meaty roles and deliver dialogues, shed tears in the background, but they do it all with great conviction. In one scene, you see Parekh crying and breaking down and she makes that moment her own. It’s just a moment, yet so significant.
And now the dynamic Vicky Kaushal! Kaushal becomes Major Vihan Singh Shergill as if he was meant to be him. He looks bigger, and huge in the uniforms he wears. The effort and time put behind looking like that shows on screen. But it’s not just the looks that he gets right. Kaushal grabs all the nuances of Major Vihan and makes him so real, so relatable. You see, in Kaushal, a burning fire that makes him deliver the way he does. Vihan could might as well have been seen as an extension of his Iqbal (Raazi) but he’s different. In one scene, at a funeral of the martyrs, you see a strong, robust Vihan standing as if this is the life they’re meant to live. But he’s crying. He’s hurt and broken. In a spec of a moment, Kaushal expresses as much as a few actors fail to in an entire film. He makes that moment the most believable moment of the film and establishes that while 2018 was his year, 2019 is going to be no different.
Kaushal is the strength and force a film like Uri: The Surgical Strike needed.
Uri: The Surgical Strike isn’t the ‘perfect’ film. It does have its flaws. But when you look at Kaushal on screen, training hard, leading his team, shedding blood and fighting enemies, you forget almost everything that supposedly goes wrong. The film is long, and needed crisper editing, you can almost tell which incidents aren’t really inspired from real life incidents, the women stay limited to the background, the film becomes predictable, the events get repetitive and towards the second half there’s nothing new Dhar has to offer. But none of this really matters. But what matters is the problem I have with the film’s patriotism. Films that involve the crusade of one’s love for the motherland need to invoke honest love for the country, whether it’s India or Pakistan. While Uri does touch that sentiment, it doesn’t come as naturally as it has in the past, in films like Chak De! India, Baby or even Kaushal’s very own, Raazi.
All in all, Uri: The Surgical Strike is a film that will sure keep you on the edge and melt your heart a little. But this is a Vicky Kaushal show, a one man act.
If I had to rate the film, I’m 100% convinced about women being in the background in a film like this, but no matter how convinced I am, it is films like Uri that can really break the mould for women.
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