D-Day, directed by Nikhil Advani, started making all the right noises earlier this week when previews started for the cast and crew’s friends, family and media. I went into the theater with really high expectations conjured by the name tags attached to the film, mainly, Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan.
A wedding song performance is brilliantly intercut with a woman fighting with her supposed husband intercut with an agent trying to take down a dreaded gangster who is entering the same building intercut with the gangster entering the same building with his entourage.
A father leaves his beloved son to school and his expressions, as his son walks away, are captured through a rear view mirror. Or the father sheathing his tears as he bids his son adieu at the airport.
A gripping replay of a merciless murder over a song sequence that talks about a personal loss
A man embracing death with the voiced imagery of his wife accepting his marriage proposal
and many many more such instances.
Advani’s D-Day is a tremendous display of taut storytelling appropriated efficiently by craft and detailing. A compelling action drama profuse with emotional wrangling, Advani often twiddles with his script, showing much skill with his metier, to deliver a sound film, if not a flawless one. Like a raging river in flood, he attempts a genre unlike any of his previous ventures (Kal Ho Naa Ho, Saalam-E-Ishq, Chandni Chowk To China, Patiala House) and seems completely at home here. As I am back home, the images of from that one song, Alvida, still haunt me and I can only smile when I think of the burgeoning growth of Indian cinema. We have come so far and this, is a rollickinginly awesome time.
D-Day boasts of a gestating fresh premise when India’s secret agency, R&AW, daringly decides to take down the most wanted terrorist, Dawood Ibrahim (whose name is not mentioned even once in the film), by sending four special agents on a mission to Pakistan to bring him back alive, inspired by America’s huntdown of Osama. Without much ado, the plot dives into the operation and the build up to it, brillliantly juxtaposing each of the agent’s backstories and weaving them seamlessly as it chugs along. The operation fails and the agents are left on their own to save their lives or their loved ones or complete the mission. Credited for its story and screenplay, Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Advani himself, shoehorn a lot of meat in the 140-150 minute runtime, and stir up a spotless first half. The second half sets up the specter with much aplomb. But somewhere towards the end, they frustratingly lose sight of reason to replace it only with shock value. Tying all the loose ends, D-Day does not get scrappy but one could complain about a minuscule smut of a twist thrown in the climax just for the heck of it. Yet, D-Day works well as a blistering assured film with much to talk about and most significantly, to exhibit the exact way to make a nationalistic movie.
Produced by DAR Motion Pictures and Emmay Entertainment, D-Day is mounted on a large scale which can boast of one of the best Editing hands in a long time, fleetingly perfected by Aarif Sheikh. Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is a peachy effort with some of the best lyrics by Niranjan Ayengar. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography is well honed to the mood and tone of the film. Tom Struthers’ action set pieces are not snazzy and work stunningly well. But the piece of cake is taken by casting director, Mukesh Chhabra who puts together a pantheon of actors that play their parts to the T, magnetized by their captain, Advani, who orchestrates the technical talent he has at his disposal to a applause-worthy ability.
Despite Irrfan being India’s best actor in ages, D-Day belongs to the long pauses and quiet looks of Arjun Rampal. Nihilistic of any of his critics, Rampal’s Rudra, the suspended army officer turned R&AW agent, is a portrayal he will be remembered long for. The restrain, the anger and the droning charm he brings out to Rudra is incredible. Irrfan, effectively leading the film, is always a delight to watch, and his Wali Khan, a man with many weaknesses, is done with surgical precision. Shri Swara, playing Wali’s wife Nafisa, is Chabbra’s latest find. A rare attraction is what she brings to the table and is really the surprise package of the film. Akash Dahiya and Huma Qureshi do not get the same scope as the previous two but they add to the ensemble with nifty performances. Rishi Kapoor is indulgently having the time of his lives effervescently redefining the negative leads in many films. His portrayal of the unnamed terrorist is menacing largely, yet he brings a humane side to the character and there is barely anyone who could have done it better. Chandan Roy Sanyal, as the eccentric nephew of the don, is first-rate, once again. Veteran actor Nasser redeems himself from his forgetful villainous act in Rowdy Rathore as the R&AW chief, Ashwini Rao, and lends a matured effort to a primal character. Shruti Hassan looks bespoke for a vulnerable Suraiya, and pulls off a commendable act. K K Raina hams up his act for most parts but it fits in with the character.
Irrespective of your first opinion of the film from its trailers and the starcast, D-Day is a significant work of fiction that will erode your inner self with a scythe and whisk you away to a high of nationalism with a thrum. Despite its minor shortcomings in the second half, Advani has kept this difficult film in ample grasp and deserves many accolades for it. It has taken a slow start at the Box Office but I expect the word of mouth to help the film. Undoubtedly, the action and gore will turn off a major section of the audience, but then, you would rather see a well-made film than another campy hokum. For me personally, I am a sucker for thrillers, and this is possibly the best mainstream film I have seen this year. DO NOT miss this one!
Rating – 4/5