Indian Police Force review: Rohit Shetty's debut web series tries to check all the boxes but fails miserably
Indian Police Force
Sidharth Malhotra, Vivek Oberoi and Shilpa Shetty as police officers, join forces to nab the mastermind behind deadly serial bomb attacks that rock Delhi, Jaipur, and Goa
Rohit Shetty and Sushwanth Prakash
Shilpa Shetty Kundra,
Vaidehi Parshurami (and then some)
Amazon Prime Video
When a series of bomb blasts hit the national capital on Delhi Police Raising Day, Special Unit Officers of the Delhi Police Force Kabir Malik (Sidharth Malhotra) and Vikram Bakshi (Vivek Oberoi) are tasked with nabbing Zarar (Mayyank Taandon) aka Haider - the executioner of the terrorist attack. They're joined by Gujarat ATS Chief Tara Shetty (Shilpa Shetty) to carry out the mission. Zarar operates for the terrorist outfit Indian Mujahiddin and has more attacks planned in more cities. The series revolves around the cat-and-mouse chase to catch the culprit and put an end to the bomb blasts, while preaching a thing or two about good Muslims vs bad Muslims, the sacrifices made by the men-in-uniform for the safety of the citizens, and of course, love for one's country.
Rohit Shetty, credited as the creator of Indian Police Force, isn't known for subtlety. In case you'd forgotton that, the very opening scene of the pilot episode will jolt your memory to remind you of the same. Amidst burning visuals of a Delhi neighbourhood after a bomb blast, our protagonist Kabir makes a slow-motion entry, looking sharp in his crisp uniform and shades. There's no sense of urgency, disbelief or shock at the visible devastation all around. You know right there, what (not) to expect from the series. Logic and nuance - both leave the writers' room the moment they realise it's a Rohit Shetty project (going by his last couple of outings). So if you begin to watch this web series, expecting layered character arcs or a realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by the Indian police force, you might want to check your expectations and reconsider your decision. But, if you're anticipating some well-executed action sequences - you won't entirely be disappointed.
Co-directed by Rohit Shetty and Sushwanth Prakash, Indian Police Force is larger-than-life in its scale and ambition. Looks like Rohit took the full form of OTT (Over The Top) in his OTT debut series a bit too seriously and quite literally. Everything - from the magnitute at which the show is mounted, to most of the performances - screams over the top. Had the narrative been as surprising as the action scenes of Shilpa Shetty's Tara (more on that in a bit), Indian Police Force may have made for a decent watch. Alas! The 7-episode-long show, with each clocking in about 35-45 minutes, fails miserably at holding your attention or making you even slightly keen to indulge in the directors' vision (if there was any).
For a series that has an army of five writers to its credit, the plot is wafer thin and lacks any element of surprise. Upon watching the show, you get the feeling that the writers were merely checking off boxes that need to be included in an action/crime drama or a police procedural. Muslim terrorist - check. Radicalization of Muslim youth - check. An enthusiastic (read hot-headed) police officer - check. Serial bomb blasts - check. Tragic death of an officer on duty - check. Backdrop of communal riots in the antagonist's backstory - check. Innocent girl falls for the terrorist, oblivious of his true identity - check. And since it's an extension of Rohit Shetty's Cop Universe, SUVs being toppled, blown up and used in car-chase sequences - check. It's astonishing that despite ticking so many boxes, the show still falls flat, with uneven pacing, shoddy dubbing and tawdry editing. Rather than keeping you hooked, the non-linear format of the series ends up leaving you confused.
In a show that's titled Indian Police Force, the antagonist probably gets the maximum screen time with a properly fleshed out backstory and character arc. You get to know very little about the men (and one woman) in action who actually belong to the police force. While there are a few glimpses of the personal lives of Kabir and Vikram, there's barely anything that you get to know about Tara. This ends up working against the premise of the series as you're left wondering if you're supposed to empathise with the terrorist or side with the righteous police officers. The screenplay becomes too convenient for you to be invested in it. Tracing down the identities of the perpetrators, the hurdles from the top management including the ministry, among other things, gives you a sense of been-there-seen-that.
The less we speak about the dialogues, the better it will be. While there are attempts to bring in some humour - a callback to Rohit's tentpole films of the Cop Universe like Singham, Simmba and Sooryavanshi, or a cheeky reference to the popular opinion that "Shetty's love gold", they never really land. Rohit has previously proved the marvels he can do when attempting in-your-face humour, with films like All The Best, Chennai Express and of course, Golmaal. The tongue-in-cheek elements in Simmba too worked pretty well. But, somewhere, the conviction and soul seem to be missing in the attempt at humour in Indian Police Force. Even the serious scenes, like the one where Sidharth's Kabir utters "Dilli ka launda hoon sir, utha ke le aaunga" fall flat which shouldn't be the case considering the actor mouthing these lines is actually a Delhi boy. At times, the conversations between the police officers seem too staged as if the actors were aware that they are all 'performing'.
And what's with the colour-grading of the frames? Everything's either too bright, or too blurred, or too yellow. The cinematography by Girish Kant and Raza Mehta is strictly average while the use of green screens is quite evident. There are multiple drone shots when the camera pans out to give you a sense of the scale at which the series has been shot. We get the point. No need to do it so repetitively that the viewing experience gets compromised.
The visual effects too don't seem to leave a mark and are sub-par at best. The background score is apt and works well, especially in the chase sequences. The best part about the series is the action choreography. When it comes to action, trust Rohit to do what he does best. He delivers a mixed bag of several hand-to-hand combat scenes, shoot-out sequences, car chases and then some, all executed brilliantly. There are quite a few sequences that seem complicated to pull off in a long shot with a hand-held camera, but they have been executed to perfection.
Amongst the performances, Shilpa Shetty clearly stands out as Tara. Right from her slo-mo entry in an SUV, panache and style intact, till the last scene, she rarely misses a beat. It's refreshing to see her getting her hands dirty in the fight sequences, doing hand-to-hand combat with so much confidence and finesse. If this is how Rohit plans to present his leading ladies in the Cop Universe, we're here for Deepika Padukone in Singham 3.
Sidharth Malhotra mostly hits the mark as Kabir, barring a few scenes where his lines betray his facial expressions. He gets the mannerisms right for the part and shines in the action scenes. We've earlier seen glimpses of his calibre in the genre in films like A Gentleman and Ek Villian but in his OTT debut series, he hits it out of the park in the fight sequences. Even though his perfectly neat and crisp shirts are distracting but we don't mind it since he looks absolutely chiselled to perfection and nails the action bit. He falters a little in the emotional scenes though, barring the one after the loss of his colleague but makes up for those with his convincing act in the interrogation scenes. Although, he seems too polished to use cuss words, he manages to pull it off.
Mayyank Taandon, making his debut as the radicalised terrorist Zarar/Haider seems a bit underprepared to play the lead antagonist. He gets the most fleshed out character, with evil plans, a wife and a younger brother et al. He even gets a nikaah sequence and a romantic song as well. There are barely any scenes in which he appears to be a formidable enemy. What he lacks in expressions, he tries to make up for them with his combat skills. Vaidehi Parshurami as his wife Nafeesa manages to impress with her act.
Vivek Oberoi puts up an uneven performance as Vikram. Almost in every scene he's a part of, he seems to be trying too hard. Whatever happened to the actor we remember from Company, Dum, Omkara and Shootout at Lokhandwala? His potential seems underutilised in the show - both in terms of screen time and character graph. Sharad Kelkar as Jagtap has little to do while Isha Talwar does justice to her portrayal of Kabir's deceased wife Rashmi. Shweta Tiwari as Vikram's wife plays her part pretty well while Mukesh Rishi as the commanding officer instantly reminds you of his character in Sarfarosh.
There's barely anything that works in favour of Indian Police Force. In an attempt to check off most boxes, Rohit Shetty fails miserably in his OTT debut series. Except the action and chase sequences, there's barely anything that is worth your time in the show.