War films make me uneasy. It’s probably my “libtard” upbringing. But watching dushman” (enemy), a hyper-nationalistic version of patriotism and a hyper-emotive background score where the drum beats are supposed to get you to rise from your seat and thump your chest. This Vicky Kaushal-starrer is no different.
But only if you pay attention to the social, political and historical contexts of the film. For instance, if you ignore the fact that actor Paresh Rawal plays the role of Govind, a character not-so-loosely based on National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, you might find his understated brilliance quite endearing. If you disregard any resemblance between actor Rajit Kapoor’s character as India’s prime minister and the actual Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you might not question the soft personality makeover he receives as a mild-mannered yet firm head of the government. If you turn a blind eye to any similarity between former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the actor who plays that role — well, you actually can’t. Between Uri, we now have lookalikes of the entire political class who might just come in handy during the upcoming general election.
Uri is an engaging watch if you don’t permit its politics to make you squirm in your seat. It is also a film where the “surgical strikes” against militant bases in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir get names, faces, colours and sounds, even if this is only a work “based” on true events. True patriotism seems to require the hero Vihaan Singh Shergill (Kaushal) to say, “16 December?)
The surprisingly heartening bits in the film come from its female actors, who have been given just enough lines to not make them sidekicks. Women in the armed forces and intelligence units is a trope that is finally seeing some maturity. Aditya Dhar’s writing is clean as is his direction. Shashwat Sachdev’s music gives Uri an edginess that gels well with Kaushal’s stellar acting.
In case you were wondering about the political propaganda aspect or whether the “Surgical Strike Day” (observed on September 29) wasn’t sufficient to celebrate the “operation”, rest easy. Bharatiya Janata Party’s parliamentarian and actor Rawal, who only plays the second most seminal role in the film, has clarified that this film is not propaganda.