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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Independence Day 2019: How Uri The Surgical Strike changed the way Indian patriotic films are made

Vicky Kaushal and Yami Gautam starrer Uri: The Surgical Strike looked and felt very different from what we have seen before. On Independence Day, a detailed look at what made it tick.

bollywood Updated: Aug 15, 2019 13:36 IST
Vicky Kaushal and Mohit Raina in a poster of Uri: The  Surgical Strike.
Vicky Kaushal and Mohit Raina in a poster of Uri: The Surgical Strike.
         

In early 2019, a film named Uri: The Surgical Strike released. Starring a relative newcomer, Vicky Kaushal, the film’s promotions were nothing compared to what one usually sees for Bollywood films. Its director, Aditya Dhar, was unknown and this was his first film. The only thing going for it was that it backed by a big production house, RSVP Movies, headed by the redoubtable, Ronnie Screwvala.

Vicky Kaushal in a still from Uri: The Surgical Strike.
Vicky Kaushal in a still from Uri: The Surgical Strike.

Nonetheless, the film released on January 11, 2019. The only thing going for it was the event that the film is based on – Indian Army’s retaliatory action on terror camps across the line of control in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Before that, four terrorists from Pakistani had conducted an early morning suicide attack on an Indian army base in Uri, Kashmir, in 2016 that killed 19 soldiers.

Despite all its handicaps, the film took off from the word go – its first weekend India collection, which stood at Rs 35.73 crores, set the mood for the audience. They had accepted the film.

 

Plays out like a thriller

Once the credits rolled by, the film plunged us straight into action; no time was wasted in any sort of an introduction. There is no attempt at dumbing down of content – a convoy of Indian Army is ambushed by NSCN (K) in Manipur. In taut scenes, we see many soldiers die. Soon enough, a group of soldiers of special operations unit of Indian Army conduct a daring operation where they target a militant camp, across the border in Myanmar (also based on a 2015 operation by Indian Army) and destroy it and this is how we are introduced to the hero of the film as well.

Much of the movie follows the same template. It is fast paced, doesn’t waste time in introducing characters and is packed with action as they happen on ground, not stylised and choreographed ones we routinely see in movies.

Technical finesse and contemporary style of filmmaking

The influence of Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty is unmistakable.
The influence of Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty is unmistakable.

Evident in the very first scenes is the finesse with which the film has been shot. It is not about glamour; the film had an undeniable imprint of the Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty. The action scenes were shot in Serbia but before that, the actors underwent extensive physical training and also military training (slithering, using arms and ammunitions and other drills used by the armed forces).

Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya (2004).
Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya (2004).

Because the film picks on recent events (2015-2016), the audience memory was bound to be fresh. Not since Lakshya (2004) have we had a war film that looks gritty and real but, to a vast majority of Indians, the Hrithik Roshan starrer is a faint memory. Speaking to Mid Day, Ronnie Screwvala had said how in his film “we have war, action, and strategy based on a true story” and how he anticipated its success. “I think this combination will make the film stand out.”

How armed forces, intelligence work

Yami Gautam plays an intelligence officer.
Yami Gautam plays an intelligence officer.
Paresh Rawal’s character is clearly inspired by NSA head, Ajit Doval.
Paresh Rawal’s character is clearly inspired by NSA head, Ajit Doval.

If Lakshya (based on Kargil war) gave us a peek into the lives of armed forces personnel, this completely focuses on their work. The film avoids melodrama, for most parts, (lack of too many dialogues). Whatever, songs feature in it, play out as background score. Audience are introduced to military lingo — stealth mode, night vision, sniper attack etc.

A major part of the run time of the film is dedicated to war preparedness, strategy and live action — a welcome relief and something new, not seen by audiences before.

In any military action, intelligence is critical. Uri gives due deference to the fact, which is why there is substantial screen time given to a character, clearly inspired by the current National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and how his team’s inputs were vital in acing this game. Unconventional in his style of functioning and thinking, Govind Bhardwaj (played by Paresh Rawal) is shown to be on ground as well, not just in office.

The film gives us a glimpse of government functioning and, in this case, acknowledged the fact that the Modi government showed political will in dealing with the challenge.

Naya Hindustan

 

In the film, Paresh Rawal’s character mouths a dialogue: “Hindustan ab chup nahin baithega, yeh naya Hindustan hai...yeh ghar mein ghusega bhi, aur maarega bhi”. It found an echo with audience. A patriotic flavour and this daring effort were lapped up by audience. The film was low on stereotypical dialogues but there was one which would get viral. To motivate his men, Major Vihaan Shergill (Vicky) would ask “How’s the josh?” to which his men shout back “High sir”. According to Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retired) “surgical strikes or cross-border operations had been carried out by the army in the past too”. However, the hype around this action was such so high that it pegged the curiosity of the audience too.

Author tweets @mniveditatweets

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First Published: Aug 15, 2019 13:33 IST

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