Bollywood has repeatedly glorified the inglorious exploits of the Mumbai mafia, often framing tales of courage and sacrifice of the infamously notorious kingpin with very little focus on how he’s still far from paying the price for his gruesome crimes.
And, hoping to set this right is director Nikhil Advani, who takes heroic liberties with his sensational movie to frame India’s most dreaded criminals.
Although his name is evidently changed, everything else – from his trademark sunglasses, to his loud garish dressing, to accurate references of his earlier misdeeds – clearly identifies who Nikhil is targeting.
And, he’s amply backed in this mission by a riveting cast, an impactful story, and a snappy edit that’s textured aesthetically.
It’s edgy. It’s gritty. It’s something purists might find tough to stomach. Yet, it’s something that can’t be ignored.
Action genius Tom Struthers and John Street, who’ve worked in Hollywood stunners like ‘Blood Diamond’, ‘The Dark Knight’, and ‘Inception’, among others, provides ‘D-Day’ with the kind of advantage that’s often compromised on Indian screens. Never have we seen men fight and punch with such raw, terrorizing rage, impacting us immeasurably.
Surprising how it took a filmmaker like Nikhil, who fed off Bollywood frivolities until now, to stir up such a menacing concoction. His edgy thriller constantly shocks and surprises us during his indulgent two-hours-and-thirty minute narrative, never once permitting a yawn.
Unfortunately, the credit for the story and screenplay isn’t his alone, with writers Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair deserving much praise for the team work.
The lines by Ritesh and Niranjan Iyengar, however, falter and fumble, and work only in parts, and not in entirety. “In your line of work, you sleep with people; and in mine, I put people to sleep,” voices an agent sheepishly as he caresses a gorgeous streetwalker.
But, Nikhil fumbles with a shaky first-half that shifts between the past and the present in hurried frames, often leaving us confused. Even a shift in the narrator is illogical and hints at how he’d end the mission.
There’s the Bollywood essential of packing in a number of songs, which slows down the pace impressionably creating many an awkward pause in the thriller. But, its treatment is imaginative, especially the one where torture and death is poetically captured.
These failings apart, Nikhil manages to pull it through.
As the curtains roll up, we watch how four earnest Indian spies are just minutes away from achieving the impossible – of nabbing the most wanted terrorist Iqbal alias goldman.
Their effort is blacked out at a crucial point, forcing a journey back in time as plentiful events unfold to explain why Iqbal won the dishonourable title and how his capture was essential for healing a wounded country.
Their operation, however, fails, leaving the team exposed to threats from the mafia, and a country unwilling to back them up. With not much to bank on, the agents are left to fend for themselves and find a way to escape unharmed.
Clearly, this game of the good boys versus the bad wouldn’t have worked if it weren’t for the stellar performances by Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and Arjun Rampal. Each man flaunts his talent impressively. While the veteran Rishi carves out Iqbal’s creepy persona with aplomb, Irrfan matches up by delightfully playing out agent Wali’s fiery patriotism.
But, it’s Arjun’s droopy eyes and broody looks that warrant applause for capturing agent Rudra’s intensity. Barring the physicality, he manages to distract us with an imposing performance, one that could safely be among his best.
There’s also Aakash Dahiya who pitches in notably as agent Aslam but he isn’t allowed much time in the spotlight due to a restrictive screenplay.
Of the ladies, Huma Qureshi bags the stronger character as the daring Zoya, who gives up marital bliss for the life of a warrior. Despite being the sole woman on the battle front, she shows immense courage and resolve, without ever turning into a damsel in distress.
Even Shruti Haasan’s bruised escort Suraiya isn’t naïve and needy. In fact, her strength and loyalty is evident in a lyrical rendition. New face Shriswara as Wali’s loyal wife also deserves praise for exuding charm and innocence.
Tamil actor Nasser steps in for a brief bit as RAW chief Ashwini Rao, who battles the unsupportive system to ensure his team is unharmed. Funny man Rajpal Yadav finds an unusual cameo as a wedding singer in ‘Duma Dum’, while ‘Kai Po Che’ star Rajkumar Yadav lends his voice and a picture as Zoya’s distanced husband.
Taking into account that India’s infamous don has found innumerable references in Bollywood frames, mostly those that romanticizes his misgivings, it’s truly commendable that there’s one filmmaker who dared to break that tradition. Instead of his journey, Nikhil turns futuristic and hints at how law could change hands if action isn’t taken adequately.
Nikhil’s solution would (literally) blow your mind away, and would most definitely be applauded.