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Uri Is That War Film We’ve Been Waiting For

Subhash K . Jha

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Uri

Starring Vickey Kaushal, Mohit Raina,  Paresh Rawal, Yami Gautam

Written & Directed by Aditya Dhar

Rating: **** ½(4 and a half stars)

 Wars  often rage within  the soldiers’ hearts, specially when they belong to army families. In one  of this significant war film’s highpoints, Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, played by the self-effacing Vicky Kaushal , gathers his troop together somewhere in Kashmir before striking surgically in  the  country  nextdoor(okay, Pakistan. There. I said  it).

These are soldiers who have lost loved ones in terror attacks,and their blood boils.

Uri  brings the  blood of cross-border  tension to a boil but avoids a spillover. There is a rush of  patriotic  pride in the  product—and why  should there  not be?—but it is  reined-in , curbed and never  allowed to spill over in a gush  of  irrepressible  jingoism.If you want to see soldiers  dancing around  a bonfire singing about how much they love their country and how much miss their loved ones, then you’ve got the wrong war  film.

Yes these soldiers love their country. But  family comes first.And when Vihaan’s brother-in-law(Mohit Raina,making a striking big-screen debut) is killed  in a vivid  recreation of  that real-life murderous attack at the Uri army base, Vihaan  channels  his  personal loss to seek  revenge  on  behalf  of the country. It may not be the  most patriotic of purposes. But  it gives  a certain disingenuous believability  to the mission.

All through its  roomy yet  tightly-wound running-time Uri  confidently  gives us people  and situations from that golden   chapter in BJP’s existence when India  voluntarily forefeited  the  politics  of pacifism to take  on  the enemy headlong.

The  narrative is stylish  and  the  political figures, from a dapper Narendra Modi(played with a  refreshing absence  of mimicry  by Rajit Kapoor) to a  droll Rakesh Bedi(playing a  belching Pakistani  politician), are all people whom we  instantly recognize , not only by  the way they look and talk   but by their  propensity to  push the narrative into top gear without toppling the narrative  into an excessively zealous jingoism.

While the actors playing Indian soldiers  are uniformly(pun intended) credible the  film’s technical polish may come as  bit of  a surprise to those of  us who have resigned ourselves to  substandard  VFX in  our cinema . Uri is shot with astounding finesse  by cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani. Every frame  is  a thoughtful  recreation of  the  moment  in  time when in 2016, Indian soldiers pushed their way into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to seek revenge.There  is  no   pitching for effect. The  drama and  the  fury flow organically.

Revenge  served cold is said to be effective. Writer-director Aditya Dhar serves it up piping hot. The  locations  and  the gunfire exchanges  are  perhaps  the  best we’ve seen  in Indian cinema.The sound-design  and  background score capture  the pain of  lost human lives without bleeding  out a banshee of  road signs for  our emotional  responses. The tone of  narration avoids overstatement .  Dhar avoids the  temptation of selfcongratulation. Barring a  dialogue like, ‘Ghar mein ghus ke marunga’ which doesn’t really belong to this film of graceful comeuppance,there is  little  chest-thumping here.

The  performances add  considerable weight to  the  drama. While Kaushal surrenders  to his character’s conflicts without intellectualizing them, I must make a special mention of  the  underused Kirti Kulhari  who  plays a  small enigmatic part as the daughter of a disgraced  army officer waiting  to  redeem her family pride…almost like the war genre in  Indian cinema that  had gone from  Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat and J P Dutta’s Border  to  Dutta’sPaltan.

Uri is  a work of many  achievements. But to me,a film about  national pride without a  single  shot of the Indian flag is the  biggest miracle since  the invention  of  the motionpicture camera. This is a  glorious beginning  to 2019. And  if patriotism is the flavour  of  the year, bring it on, provided  it’s not about Paki-bashing.Just getting even.

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