Hot on a dreaded terrorist’s trail, an intelligence team provides minute-by-minute updates to their superior: He is standing at the bus stop. He got into the bus. The bus is moving. He is moving. Keep distance. He got off one stop early.
Taking directions from Google Maps is more exciting than director Rajkumar Gupta evoking the ground reality of a day in the lives of IB officers.
It’s one thing to want realism, another to suck all joy out of it. Based on true events, India’s Most Wanted is one of the most lifeless depictions of a covert operation and tamer tribute to the unsung heroes conducting it.
The story has all the elements of a gripping espionage tale — team assemblage, outdoor travel, secret sources, elusive antagonist, a daunting deadline and diplomatic headaches but Gupta’s unnecessary aversion to drama turns India’s Most Wanted into a classic case of all work and no play.
What unfolds is staggeringly dull, a movie devoid of pace or personality.
Images of serial bomb blasts across India punctuate the proceedings as investigation officer Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor) forms a five man crew to apprehend an extremist, the ‘Ghost who bombs’, modelled after Yasin Bhatkal, following a lead he receives from his anonymous informer (Jitendra Shastri channeling his inner Kader Khan) in Nepal.
As per India’s Most Wanted, Indian authorities have little interest in catching the guy and the deed is more or less volunteer work by its underpaid, overworked employees. Which is why, despite a reluctant boss (Rajesh Sharma) and zero financial support, these do-gooder patriots promise to have the baddie in the bag within four days. Just in case one is slow on the uptake, Vande Mataram blares loudly in the background.
Given how closely and routinely Prabhat and his colleagues collaborate, the lack of camaraderie is most odd. Beyond a one-off, monotonous interaction around their respective families, the nondescript supporting cast is mere accessory. They look believable, that’s all. Except, what’s the point of appearing genuine if there’s no individuality?
The villain (Sudev Nair) suffers an even worse fate. His character is confined to fierce eyes, bushy beard and stock statements like, ‘Marenge ya maarenge. Milegi to jannat hi.‘
Here’s a man responsible for Shah Rukh Khan’s troubles at New York airport, a detail the movie diligently points out, but fails to convey it for any purpose in a way that would truly underscore a vile man’s might or mischief.
Though Kathmandu provides a refreshing change of scenery, India’s Most Wanted doesn’t explore its potential beyond meaningless drone shots. Slickness is hardly Gupta’s forte and he’s rather clueless around music. Under the circumstances, composer Amit Trivedi’s background score has a field day doing his thing. You’ll hear everything from a Western, a Victorian drama and a French countryside romance.
Unfortunately, not even discordant notes can shake this snooze fest out of its stupor. In the absence of tension and smarts, India’s Most Wanted‘s so-called mission is about as adventurous as plumbing. You can only imagine how drab things are if its only instance of dynamism is a dream sequence.
To give a semblance of obstacle, Gupta throws in some ISI resistance, hostile Nepal security forces and an inexplicably disinclined Indian side. It’s not very well thought out and he has no choice but to go fully filmi, resulting in the protocol-defying Prabhat behave like a typical Bollywood hero.
The problem is Arjun Kapoor doesn’t know the difference between restrained and reactionless. His spiritless act neither has clout nor the charisma to nail the leader of an IB pack. It’s unbearable, this dullness. You’ll find more action in a grocery shop’s CCTV footage than in all of India’s Most Wanted.