Spy movies have been gaining momentum in the last few years and quite a few Indian filmmakers have expressed an interest in making them. While we see international espionage movies with characters meeting in gardens and tunnels, our spies bond over qawwali performances.
Romeo Akbar Walter is a slow and dreary film which has utilised all the cliches known to filmmakers while making a spy film.
John Abraham plays the role of the rugged and macho, Romeo.
The film is set in 1971 and has an interesting backdrop of the India-Pakistan war. The Indian army training rebels in East Pakistan, Indian intelligence trying to outwit the Pakistanis via diplomatic misdirection, and Pakistani intelligence are shown to be extremely diligent and quite adept.
The Indian intelligence network seems to have been largely inspired by Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as they pass around notes in oranges! Unfortunately, the film drags on for too long, and — despite RAW chief played Jackie Shroff insisting and reading a dossier “Nothing will be told to you directly” — they try to spell out every single detail. Some details are good.
You have to credit the makers for showing handbills on the wall advertisement the once-popular Turkish television brand, Arcelik, we hear of Prakash Padukone winning badminton tournaments in Kuala Lumpur, and a radio cruelly taunts a Pakistani Colonel with a classic, happy (albeit racist) Hindi film song.
Performance wise, this is an out and out John Abraham show. However, his acting is marred by shoddy writing and bad direction. Jackie Shroff passes off as RAW chief, while Mouni Roy doesn’t have much of screentime. Sikander Kher as ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) Col Khudabaksh Khan is plastic, however, he does manage to get the dialect right. Amjad Khan’s son Shadaab Khan has a small role and is seen on the big screen after 18 years.
Suchitra Krishnamoorthy has a surprising and interesting cameo, but we will not divulge more about it.
Swapnil Bhalerao and Madhur Madhavan have recreated the 1971 India-Pakistan quite convincingly while cinematographer Tapan Basu does a competent job of capturing the proceedings of the intelligence agencies well. Rabbi Shergill’s new Bulleya song manages to create some magic on the screen.
However, the movie has a very amateurish approach. It looks like the pale cousin of Alia Bhatt- Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi. RAW seems like a poorly rehashed copy of Raazi. We have already seen how spies are created in the ever-volatile political tensions of India-Pakistan, so RAW has nothing new to offer. The movie has nothing new to offer when it comes to infiltrating enemy camps and finding ‘secrets’.
While we applaud the intent, the execution is done pretty poorly. There was no heart and soul in RAW and it does seem like a half-baked attempt at making a spy thriller. Even the twists and turns in the film fail to be gripping or make for a compelling watch, which is not the case with spy thrillers.