India’s Most Wanted review: Arjun Kapoor captures a terrorist, but needed a better plan

Director Raj Kumar Gupta’s promising story on the capture of a dreaded terrorist lacks few a thrills, and it needed a better effort from its cast

By Mayur Lookhar

Film: India’s Most Wanted

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma

Director: Raj Kumar Gupta

Rating: 3/5

One can guard against a known threat, but it’s the fear of the unknown that gives intelligence agencies, law-enforcing authorities sleepless nights.  With little or no intelligence about them, such criminals assume the entity of ghosts. Director Raj Kumar Gupta’s India’s Most Wanted tracks the manhunt for one such ghost.

As widely speculated, the film is indeed based on the capture of a dangerous terrorist, who carried out various terror attacks across the country between 2006 and 2013.  His capture and subsequent interrogation also revealed that the man used to travel abroad under the alias of Shah Rukh Khan.  We leave it to the audience to decipher the true identity of the terrorist.

Bollywood seldom showcases real identities. So, it’s only convenient to build your story around true events.   

Prabhat Kumar [Arjun Kapoor], a low key, almost underrated Intelligence Officer receives a tip off from his source ‘Octopus’ about a potential high-profile target hiding in Nepal.  Beyond that, there is no other information but Prabhat has a gut feeling that could be huge.  His boss, IB Joint Director Rajesh Singh [Rajesh Sharma], reluctantly agrees to Prabhat’s request but this secret operation has no blessing from the top brass.

Prabhat is accompanied by his innocuous looking team that includes Manish [Pravin Singh Sissodia], Bittu [Aasif Khan],  Javed [Devendra Mishra], Pillai [Prasanth Philip Alexander]. Save for Javed, you wouldn’t fancy the other members to go on a dangerous mission.  Looking at them, one can safely presume that Prabhat’s team members are definitely not on the pay roll of the IB. One of them even moans that why is it that they often have to shell out money from their pockets to carry out dangerous tasks?  Prabhat and his team are ordinary, lower middle-class men who want to do something for their country.

As much as the film is about capturing a terrorist, India’s Most Wanted though pays tribute to the unassuming, unsung heroes. Such episodes are classified, and it’s difficult to know the identities of the real men.  So, Gupta uses the creative liberty to create his heroes.

Conventional thrillers would throw up chiseled bodies in high octane action. Gupta stays clear from it as his characters, prime plot has a great sense of realism attached to it.  The screenplay though could have been much tighter. 

Gupta was blessed with powerful performers like Ajay Devgn, Saurabh Shukla in his last film Raid [2018].  There is no such luxury with India’s Most Wanted. 

Arjun Kapoor played the Bihari lover boy in Half Girlfriend (2017).  Did that performance convince Gupta that Kapoor was the best man to play the Bihari Prabhat Kumar?

Kapoor’s stocky frame, beard and the Bihari dialect does bring simplicity to the character, but Prabhat lacks the gravitas of a man assigned on such a mission.  However, it’s this ‘ordinary’ trait that makes Prabhat and his mates Gupta’s ‘unlikely heroes’.  Prabhath and his men had vowed to bring the terrorist without use of any guns or arms, but perhaps Gupta needed to empower his protagonist with some wily tricks and better dialogues.  Kapoor appears to be stifled by Prabhat’s personality.  You can’t help but wonder whether the director has the got best out of his actor?

Kapoor, and his well-wishers, though would take heart from this show, for the actor has been off the boil lately.

Gupta is let down by the supporting casting. Rajesh Sharma is not very flattering but it’s primarily Prabhat’s team-mates that cut a sorry figure.  The one exception though is the informer [played by Jitendra Shastri].  Source never ought to be revealed and so the informer is simply addressed as a ‘friend’.  He has kohl-rimmed eyes, henna dyed hair, and speaks in a monosyllabic language. This ‘friend’ can’t be trusted easily.  Shastri regales in his act.

Sudev Nair, Gupta’s antagonist has frightening eyes and an intimidating voice.  The evil is only unmasked in the business end as Nair mostly has a ghostly presence in the various bomb blasts that he carried out.  With each blast, the man has a dialogue justifying his action and it’s accompanied by annoying background score.  Overall, the background score in the entire film leaves a lot to be desired. 

A deadly mission without use of arms is unique but it also hinders India’s Most Wanted.  Gupta builds a great hype around his antagonist but the all-important combat scene ends up in a whimper as the villain hardly puts up a fight.

Manhunt tales are few in Bollywood and the criticism against India’s Most Wanted is that it perhaps lack tact.  

Few Indian heroes set course for a manhunt. Thee intelligence boss and his team have to face red tape, lack of political will. They bump into enemy territory but their plan is known to rival agencies, who try to hunt them down. There is a short window to execute the plan, our heroes are advised to abort mission but they’ve come too far to go back now. They eventually nab the target and escape in the nick of time.

Akshay Kumar’s Baby (2015) comes to mind here. ‘Mil jaate hain hamein kuch pagal officers,” [We do manage to get some crazy officer] Danny Denzongpa tells his boss in Baby.  Rajesh Singh [Rajesh Sharma] too dubs his boy Prabhat as crazy.  Sounds familiar? However,  where India’s Most Wanted scores over Baby is that is based on a true story and not some fantasy. Baby was more of wishful thinking as director Neeraj Pandey’s fictional story saw a Hafiz Saeed [mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack] like character being nabbed by the Indian agents in United Arab Emirates.

Often Indian cinema has shown the India-Pakistan tales through war films, masala spy thriller, India Most Wanted though is perhaps a first tale that subtly throws light on the nexus between Inter Services Intelligence [Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency] and Maoists of Nepal. 

Raj Kumar Gupta’s film has it flaw but the curiosity around how India’s Osama Bin Laden was captured should be enough to draw in audiences to India’s Most Wanted.

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