Uri: The Surgical Strike
Direction: Aditya Dhar
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Mohit Raina, Yami Gautam, Kirti Kulhari
Duration: 2 hours 18 minutes
Rating: 4 stars (****) out of 5
War movies serve an important purpose. Apart from giving an adrenaline rush to the audience and dramatic representation of the minute-by-minute account of action sequences leading into combat scenes, they also give a sneak preview into the politics and socio-economic scenario that led to the war in its first place.
When it was first revealed to the world that commandos of the Indian Army had conducted a successful surgical strike deep inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and destroyed terrorist launch pads, there were a few politicians and self-proclaimed intellectuals who had demanded solid evidence of these “surgical strikes”. Well, “Uri: The Surgical Strike” the Vicky Kaushal starrer Hindi film provides them with this evidence.
Of course, the movie is just the dramatic representation of what transpired in the immediate days of fidayeen (suicide) attack on the Indian Army base camp at Uri on September 18, 2016. Film brings to fore the palpable tension in the nation when questions were asked in all quarters about how long can Indian soldiers remain sitting ducks at forward positions in Kashmir. Just ten days later on September 29, 2016 it was announced to the world about the successful conduct of surgical strikes across the LoC (Line of Control) inside the POK.
Such covert operations, by their very nature, remain shrouded in secrets leaving the public to believe what the government of the day decides to tell them. Shrewd politicians know that any incumbent government cannot reveal exact details of these covert operations and so these politicians continue to mislead the larger public in order to score brownie political points. Also, despite extensive reportage by the media, the public, by and large, remains unaware of the facts and the perspective.
It’s in this context that war movies play an important role by peeling off different layers of the events that led to the conduct of such covert operations.
“ISI tou Pakistan se upar hai (ISI—Inter Services Intelligence is above Pakistan),” says Govind (Paresh Rawal) who enacts India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, in the film, at a high power meeting while discussing India’s response to a series of ISI-sponsored terrorist attacks. This innocuous comment in a film has the potential to explain to the common man how a section within Pakistan continues to use state’s machinery to continue proxy war with India. Similarly, there’s a scene in the movie when an Indian drone disguised as a bird hovers around terrorist hide-out within the POK to get clear visuals of terrorists holed up inside. A teenager sees that bird-drone, is enticed by it, surreptitiously sneaks out of the terror hide-out and picks up the drone thinking it to be an exotic toy. This scene subconsciously gives out a message about how a few vested interests within Pakistan have used children as cannon fodder to fuel their proxy war in Kashmir.
The release of ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ in an election year is bound to raise eyebrows and cynics have already begun to dismiss the film as Narendra Modi government’s election propaganda. Cynicism aside, that a film of such sensitive nature with much needed research has been released within two years of actual action is no mean feat.
Debutant Director Aditya Dhar has deftly incorporated bits of information and packaged it into a single story. The young daughter of a martyred Army officer shouting war cry in the film is actually based on a true story of Col MN Rai’s daughter’s final salute to her father, who was killed in a terrorist shoot out at Tral in Kashmir Valley. In the film Army officer Mohit Raina’s daughter shouts his battle cry while laying the wreath on her father’s decorated coffin who gets killed in the terrorist attack at Uri base camp on September 18, 2016. Vicky Kaushal (Major Vihaan Shergill) and other defence personnel repeat this battle cry.
Major Vihaan Shergill then leads his team of para commandos across the LoC (Line of Control) to destroy the terror modules and kill terrorist handlers with surgical precision aptly known as ‘surgical strikes’.
‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ scores over several other war movies made by the Indian film industry in the past. Though there have been conscious effort to evoke emotions and show the personal lives of the protagonist (Vicky Kaushal), yet full marks must be given to screenplay writer and the director for resisting the temptation to make Major Vihaan lip sync the lyrics of songs that hitherto have been a permanent feature of war movies made in Hindi. The songs in the film play in the background and soldiers do indulge in lighter moments but that’s essentially to establish the situation and the characters. The action sequences replete with firings and gunshots, the war room being manned by Paresh Rawal, intelligence officers and Army Generals convey a sense of business and give a rush of adrenaline to the audience. The girls Yami Gautam and Kirti Kulhari do justice to their brief but important roles.
‘Uri: The surgical strike’ helps understand the dangers of a covert mission and the effort that goes on in their execution. The camera work and sound track in the movie are well executed and despite knowing the outcome about the mission that happened barely two years ago, one remains glued to the big screen for the sheer magnitude of this operation that took place within the frontiers of enemy lines.
There’s a sequence in the film when Major Shergill (Vicky Kaushal) is on hot pursuit of the terrorist handler and comes across that same teenager who had earlier (in the film) playfully held the drone-bird in his hands. The teenager’s hands are violently shaking while clinging on to the automatic assault rifle, his demeanour conveys to the audience how poor and young children in an impressionable age are thrust into this mindless war. Indian Major resists the temptation to shoot this innocent boy, lurks precariously towards him, locks him up in a room and lunges further towards the terrorist mastermind.
The film is a must watch for petty politicians who are ably supported by self-proclaimed intellectuals and five-star opportunists spread across India who had repeatedly asked for proof after the success of surgical strikes were announced. The point that no Indian soldier died or was captured alive speaks about the dexterity and strike capabilities of Indian Army commandos, but this was discomforting to these opportunists who tried to make personal gains by raising tangential issues.
‘Uri: The surgical strike’ reiterates a point well known in diplomatic circles. And the point is: “Every country has an Army, but Pakistan’s Army has a country”. This Pakistan Army and its sidekick intelligence outfit ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) have always used Pakistan’s poor as canon-fodder. This has been clearly brought out in the film by showing the plight of a teenager who is forced to work in the terror launch pad in POK.
Cynics will continue to pour their diatribe and find faults with the technique, sound track, story line and everything else with the film. However, before drawing any conclusion it must be borne in mind that much of the information in covert military operations comes under the classified category and a filmmaker has to fill in the gaps with publicly available information to weave a believable story without losing sight of the larger picture. It’s here that the writer-director and his team has done a remarkable job with ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’. The film may still fall short when compared with war movies produced by Hollywood, yet it comes very close to matching the very best war movies of our times.