Uri: The Surgical Strike Review: The Nation Seems to Love it
How often have you had the experience of watching a movie in a cinema hall where the audience is so charged up that they even express their happiness with a loud round of applause during the interval? You must be wondering if I perhaps wrote it wrongly as interval instead of the climax or the end, but no, the interval is exactly what I am referring to. I had this almost surreal experience of sorts while watching Uri: The Surgical Strike, not so long ago. And if my observation during the interval point was any indication of the audience response, then what followed later on was an amplified version of the same. In the 2 weeks since the film has been in theatres all around us and taken the box office by storm, Uri has managed to surprise everyone, the trade, film critics and the audience as well. How many Hindi films have succeeded commercially like this with an early January release is something that would be worth finding out just for trivia lovers like me.
Produced by RSVP Movies and directed by Aditya Dhar (directorial debut), Uri is of course a fictionalized account of the Uri attacks of 2016 and what is known as our surgical strikes in retaliation. The film revolves around Major Vihaan Singh Shergill (Vicky Kaushal), a fearless army officer and his trusted Special Forces team which includes his brother-in-law, Major Karan Kashyap (Mohit Raina). After a successful mission in the North-East, Vihan decides to quit the army to take care of his ailing mother (Swaroop Sampat). Instead he is offered a desk job at Delhi which he takes up though his heart keeps yearning for action on the battlefield. When the infamous attack on the Indian army base in Uri happens, Major Karan is among those who are killed. India decides to retaliate and a distraught Vihaan is made the head of the mission, he knows he needs to avenge his brother-in-law and make his country proud.
It is evident that Aditya Dhar has done his homework pretty well, this is seen in the way he has tried to construct a fictional tale and yet ensure that the writing does not give the output a documentary like feeling. Yes the proceedings are a tad lengthier than required is a feeling that might creep in once you’ve watched the film, also there are a few elements which are certainly dispensable without reducing the overall impact of the film. But overall the presentation seems to be working very well for the audience at large. A good share of the credit goes for the same would perhaps go to the action director Stefan Richter and his team for getting the action sequences bang on target as well as the DOP Mitesh Mirchandani for providing the film with the kind of feel and mood that it visually deserves. Vicky Kaushal seems to be having a blast these days, not so long he made a major impact as the Pakistani military official in Raazi, here he switches sides and is very convincing as Major Vihaan.
But the film isn’t without its share of concerns, strangely despite sporting fictional names, the characters of the politicians and the bureaucrats have been made to physically appear as clones of the original people concerned, appearing a bit strange after a while. While this is still alright it is a little difficult to appreciate that the proceedings fail to be soulful after the base has been reasonably well set up. Be it the way the Uri attacks are shown to have taken place in such a convenient fashion or the way Major Vihaan is almost shown as a superhero of sorts, it’s a bit like watching the proceedings out of curiosity but without much of a connect. Except for Mohit Raina initially no one else who’s part of the armed forces on either side of the border is given a significant role on screen, making Vicky Kaushal look omnipresent of sorts. Yami Gautam as RAW agent Pallavi Sharma, Paresh Rawal as the National Security Advisor, Kirti Kulhari as IAF officer Seerat Kaur and Rajit Kapur as the PM do get adequate screen time but do not get to pull off a significant act.
For all the preparation that went into the film, I do wonder how Vihaan Singh can be allowed to maintain a bearded look at all times. As a Special Forces operative I can understand this, but is he entitled to this special concession even while holding a desk job in Delhi? Eventually none of these things probably matter as the audience seems to have embraced the film in a big way. By the time your show gets over you need not be surprised to hear a thundering ovation and patriotic slogans pouring in all around you. Uri had the potential to be India’s Zero Dark Thirty of sorts, but ends up as just a visually appealing action film at best.
Aditya Dhar makes a confident debut as filmmaker with Uri and is ably supported by his leading man, Vicky Kaushal. The film could have worked well as a superb war film from India, but falls well short of being so.