Written by Manisha Lakhe
Rajkummar Rao Ko Kitna Ragdoge?
The word ‘Omerta’ means a code of silence that members
of crime groups adopt when caught by the law. This film
shows us how Omar was happy to kill in the name of
religion. The staccato storytelling style and the constant
shift between past and present is distracting at best.
Unfortunately there is no emotional takeaway from the
story, so you watch the stabbings and the kidnappings
wondering ‘what was that?’
The film begins with Rajkummar Rao in a pub arm wrestling
contest with big ‘white’ men. Erm… No matter how much they
show Rajkummar Rao exercise, he’s no Sylvester Stallone.
But Hansal Mehta has given us critically acclaimed Shahid and
the fabulous Aligarh, so you stop scoffing and let the film take
you where it wants to go.
We see that he’s stalking tourists. And you grin at the
ridiculousness of a tourist playing chess with beer in hand.
Of course Omar plays chess and he drinks milk. For a terrorist
who wants to blend in, a little odd, no?
The events unfold on the screen like a listicle. He stalks and
kidnaps tourists, gets trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan,
kidnaps and butchers Daniel Pearl, and then orchestrates the
26 November attacks in India from a prison in Pakistan. Initially,
you are interested because the film offers us a sort of back
story: he’s is a prayerful Muslim lad dropped out from London
School Of Economics because he’s moved by the Muslim
deaths in Bosnia. But it is not a believable story at all. It feels
far fetched because there isn’t a direct emotional connect.
The terrorist in training who holds the photographs of his parents
before and after they were killed has more emotional connect
than just some guy who is moved to terrorism because people
are being killed in another part of the world. His dad seems so
rational, it makes no sense for the lad to be indoctrinated by
seeing photographs of dead people.
Perhaps the nature of indoctrination is that way. We see no
womenfolk in this ‘terrorist’ biopic. So for Omar to say, ‘You raped
my mother and my sisters’ seems silly almost. And if he’s so
‘intelligent’, why does he not realise kidnapping tourists in India
is just pointless exercise and not really jihad? And he loses focus
from Bosnia so easily and is happy because ‘people treat him well’
What the film misses out is showing us why he takes joy in the
killing. They use real news footage to make a point, where the
original Omar is shown smirking and smiling as he is arrested.
It would have made for an interesting psychological portrait had
we understood where the smirk comes from. Netflix show Narcos
on Pablo Escobar keeps you involved because we understand
how the mind of the man worked. Rajkummar Rao’s Omar is a flat
character. There are no redeeming qualities to him at all. Pablo
Escobar is supposed to have set fire to 2 million dollars once
because his daughter was cold. Here, Omar is rude to his wife
because she claims she is worried for him. It’s the only interaction
in the film where Omar is shown with his family. In the scenes
with his father, he just comes across as someone who needed
to be slapped by his ammi a couple of times when he was younger.
The film is too disjointed by far to make any impact. In fact when
you see his rational father say that he’s innocent seems completely
out of character. Rajkummar Rao has worked very hard on his
British accent and even says ‘Innit’ rather well, but you wonder
why he speaks English in Pakistan in a Dhaba and to other locals,
and then gets enraged when other terrorists in training laugh at his
‘softness’. It’s a biopic, so watch it with a sense of detachment
and wonder why the film was made.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)