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‘Uri’: A tale of valour, indomitable will and triumph over life which was bound to upset the usual suspects

This movie was bound to irk the "liberals" who demonise the Army constantly, wanted proof of the surgical strike and have a pathological hatred for anyone that doesn't harbour the kind of toxic hatred for the current dispensation as they do.

Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theatre – Roman Polanski 

Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, Paresh Rawal

Director: Aditya Dhar

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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A tale of valour, grit, indomitable will and triumph over life is what best defines the movie, Uri: A Surgical Strike and the sentiment was palpable in the packed theatre last night.

The mere fact that the movie was based on the Surgical Strike of 2016, carried out to avenge Pakistan’s dastardly and gruesome attack against our unarmed men in olive got the audience extremely excited even before the movie started. After the National Anthem was played, several people from the audience threw their fist in the air to chant “Bharat Mata Ki….”, and pat came the response from the rest of the audience… “Jai”. “Vande….” yelled the group, “Mataram” responded the audience.

India is intrinsically a patriotic country and Uri, tugs on those heartstrings rather effectively. One saw several members of the audience sitting with their hand half covering their mouth and half covering their eyes in the first scene itself when they show the Manipur attack. And one quickly saw that fear dissipate into a sense of triumph when that attack was avenged.

At the beginning itself, the scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It was to be a tale of triumph. The surprise emotional twist was that of the personal battle of Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, played ever so beautifully by Vicky Kaushal. It took the audience through a roller coaster ride of tears and smiles while watching Major Vihaan work through his internal emotional battle between his passion for the job and his love for his mother.

Vicky Kaushal manages to play that part flawlessly without the overdose of acting that has become synonymous with movies based on the Army. He exudes the silent grit that an Army Major would with the outburst of emotions being limited to the final kill during the Surgical Strike.

The scene of the surgical strike itself represents the chaos of an army operation without overdoing the dramatisation or the organisation of directed action sequences and perhaps, that is the USP of the movie. The optics of the handheld camera and the chaos it was meant to represent rubs off on the movie as intended while the soldiers align themselves perfectly the storm the terror camps. The highlight of the scene is certainly the emotional culmination of Major Vihaan which has been done just right. It captures the essence of the Indian Army where revenge is extracted for all fallen brothers in olive and not just the ones they lose personally.

Army movies, like war movies, work because they play on the deepest emotions of the average viewer. The average viewer in India is patriotic, loves the country and the Indian Army that protects his family from harm’s way and like all civilians, lack the grit to do what men in olive do. It helps the audience connect with the Army on a deeper, emotional level. And not just that, it helps the viewer connect with the family of the men in olive and get a glimpse into not only their strong bonds of brotherhood but that of the Indian Army’s unwavering ethics.

This movie was bound to irk the “liberals” who demonise the Army constantly, wanted proof of the surgical strike and have a pathological hatred for anyone that doesn’t harbour the kind of toxic hatred for the current dispensation as they do.

NDTV in its review gave the movie 2 out of 5 stars and wrote:

“First-time writer-director Aditya Dhar peddles more figments of the imagination than hard-knuckled actuality. He gives his predilections away in a declaration ahead of the opening credits. His film, it says, is a tribute to the valour of our soldiers and – hold your breath – “a new India”. The implication is that our army officers and jawans were pipsqueaks until the present dispensation came along. Sure, a film is allowed to spin a bit of yarn but not when it is dealing with an event so close to our times. Uri: The Surgical Strike is supposedly “based on true events”, but the film frequently strays far from the truth to underline its politically expedient claims. In a specious way, the film negates the proud history of the Indian Army”. 

The reviewer, Saibal Chatterjee, betrays his profession by bringing in his personal political bias into a review that should have otherwise been written very differently. Chatterjee says that first-time writer-director Aditya Dhar peddles more ‘figments of the imagination than hard-knuckled actuality’. A movie reviewer has to bear in mind that there is a difference between a documentary and a movie. The movie is bound to dramatise and exaggerate considering it is a cinematic representation based on true events.

The reviewer also takes grouse with the term “New India” and says that the movie insinuates that our officers and jawans were pipsqueaks until the present dispensation and in a “specious way, negates the proud history of the Indian Army”. The reviewer could not be further from the truth and unfortunately, the only pipsqueak who betrayed his pen at the altar of political bias is Chatterjee himself. The Indian Army is the military arm of the government and while the Army always had the grit to do what is needed, the political dispensation lacked spine, evidenced from the fact that the Army was asked to hold back after the 26/11 attack. The “New India” phrase pertains to the new political will and not the Indian Army, but perhaps, when movie reviewers start commenting on policy without an inkling about the truth, the result is an NDTV hire.

Chatterjee then goes on a painful rant. So painful, in fact, that for a moment, one would think the review was written by Kavitha Krishnan who had an issue with Twitter Indian Flag emoji. He writes:

Uri: The Surgical Strike proves in no uncertain terms that even if Hindustan hasn’t turned naya overnight, Bollywood sure has. Parts of the mainstream Mumbai industry now thinks nothing of unabashed genuflection before those in power. It is shamelessly wide-eyed, unquestioning and all too willing to promote a brand of patriotism that espouses the bellicosity of the neighbourhood muscleman more than the clinical aggression of master military strategists.

I am not sure what Chatterjee expected from the movie, but judging by his rant, I believe he would have expected the movie the question whether the surgical strike happened at all? Much like Congress and Pakistan?

Coming back to the movie itself, my rating of 4 stars out of 5 for the movie is based on three disappointments.

1. Under pressure, the makers of the movie edited one dialogue from the movie. When the trailer was first released, it had the following dialogue:

“apni 72 hooron ko hamara salam bolna, kehna dawat par intezar karein, aaj bahot saare mehman bhejne wale hain” (give our greetings to your 72 hoors, tell them to wait for the feast, today we are sending a lot of guests).

This dialogue was first removed from the trailer and in the movie itself, this dialogue is absent. Personally, I think a movie that aims to capture the valour of the Indian Army really should not cow down to sectarian pressure.

2. I would have ideally liked to see more of the Surgical Strike itself. The action sequence seems to start and finish too soon, leave me wanting for more.

Other than these two minor disappointments, the movie hits the right marks and lives up to the dialogue “How’s the Josh?”, “High Sir”.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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