Verdict - Omerta is groundbreaking research and stellar performance, but not a film. It is a news story or a documentary at best
Every once in while you come across a film that just confuses your sense of judgement. Omerta is that film, but not in a good way.
Not every day you get a front seat view of the inner working of terrorist organizations and the thought process that goes into it. In that respect, Omerta as an effort is applaud worthy. The research, the hardwork and the sheer will that has gone into making the venture possible is awe-inspiring and that translates on to the screen.
But instead of a film, it unfolds like a news report or at the most a documentary. The makers almost assume that audience has a hold of the transpiring events, because without a prior knowledge and hang of things, a lot of the film would make little no sense. If that’s not indulgent film-making, I don’t know what is.
The screenplay of this movie is a bigger villain than Omar Sheikh probably. Events that changed the course of modern history, like 1994 kidnapping of Western tourists in India, Air India flight hijack, ISI-Al-Qaeda nexus and even 9/11 and 26/11 is dealt with callously. We did not need a film to be made if all it did was show newspaper cuttings and recorded news footage, we already saw that.
Director Hansal Mehta has literally gone into the deep dark corners of global terrorism and the solid research he has done is unparalleled. But Mukul Dev’s story and the poor screenplay pulls the ship down. What is especially surprising is the fact that the film which claims to be a biopic gives us very little insight into what made London born Omar chose the path of terrorism and why he harbors this volcano of rage inside him. Him seeing pictures and newspaper cuttings of brutality on Bosnian Muslims is simply too feeble a motivation for something as grave as this. The film also says nothing about Omar’s alleged involvement with British Intelligence Agency MI6. The film tries to maintain a balance where you neither condone nor condemn Omar but weirdly oscillates between being propaganda-ish and almost apologetic at times. The father-son chemistry between Omar and his dad had some potential to add some layers and texture to it, but it was also left unexplored. Even at 1 hour 36 minutes the film feels like a stretch simply because you keep waiting for something to happen but to no avail.
However, to give credit where its due, Omerta is a Rajkummar Rao show alright. He delves so deep into the character of this British-Pakistani terrorist that it is almost eerie. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is not the real man the movie talks about. The smooth talking, heartless and slick Omar is the most difficult character he has played so far indeed, and we see why. The darkness and the anger he has brought into the character is rare in Bollywood. In a film so devoid of drama, it is his performance that tries to remind you that it is a film you are watching and not a documentary. He is almost there in every frame of the film and it heavily relies on his charisma as an actor and boy does he not disappoint. The British accent that Rajkummar have acquired in the film shows his passion to get even minute details right, but at times the accent sounds a bit forced and his Hindi especially is entirely devoid of any accent which kind of becomes a little jarring.
The background music tries to add drama in certain bits, but it falls flat in general. The cinematographer, however, has done a good job. The shots of bustling and congested Paharganj area of Delhi, the raw and naked beauty of the valleys of Afghanistan where militant training camp takes place or the close frames of the kidnapping is all very well executed.
To be honest, the individual efforts that make up the different aspects of the film is brilliant in their own right but does not work in cohesion to make a compact, thrilling and gripping film on this man and the world of organized terrorism.