D-Day (2013)

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See trailer first…

… not bad eh. Looks slick and action-packed eh.

I am not good with my Indian/Hindi history but I do know D-Day plays on the tricky Pakistani-India relations after the Mumbai bombing. So in essence, it’s a Hindi Zero Dark Thirty and the film plays up the nationalistic nuances.

D-Day is a spy action thriller and this genre is perpetually stuck in cheesy James Bond wannabe mode in Bollywood. Case in point being Ek Tha Tiger – logic defying action galore, great to look at but nothing stays in your head after it ends. D-Day IMHO embarrasses all these Hindi James Bond-Ethan Hunt hangovers and shows you a new breed of spy thriller.

India’s most wanted, Goldman aka Iqbal Seth (Rishi Kapoor) is hiding out in plain sight in Karachi. A sleeper agent, Wali Khan (Irrfan Khan) eyes him in a temple one day. Wali has been a sleeper agent in Karachi for 9 years. In that time he has created a life for himself – he is a barber and has a wife and son. Goldman is his ticket back to India. The Chief of Intelligence, Ashwini (Nassar) due for retirement soon gives the go-ahead to bring in Goldman alive. The team will consist of Zoya (Huma Qureshi), an explosive expert, Aslam (Aakash Dahiya), the getaway driver and Rudra (Arjun Rampal), the mercenary. The mission will take place when Goldman under the protection of the Pakistani Intelligence force, attends his son’s wedding at a hotel.

For 2.5 hours, me and the missus were kept spellbound by this fast pace thriller. I love action and the action here is spect-fcuking-acular. Brutal, gritty and slick, grounded in the law of physics and human behaviour. But all this superb action is useless if the characters are crappily written. There is none of that here. There is just enough vulnerability written into them to make them feel real.

Rishi Kapoor plays his red-speckie slimeball with relish. He has that right amount of geniality because he is a player of man. Irrfan is just incredible (he is the storyteller in Life of Pi). I swear they can just make a film of him staring into the distance, running through a gamut of emotions and it will be a movie I would watch. He plays the leader of the team and his patriotism is tested when his family is captured. Brilliant actor. Then there is Arjun Rampal… he plays the taciturn man with the gun. I love his side-story with a facially-scarred prostitute, Suraiya played brilliantly by Shruti K Hassan. Oh man… Arjun Rampal is damn MAN and I felt my ‘man’ feelings stirring up. Huma Qureshi who plays the explosive expert is also cool. All her backstory is done through clever voice-overs.

Being a spy genre flick, D-Day just couldn’t get away from clichés – a boss who is retiring, mission gone to hell, silent man with understanding prostitute. But what Nikhil Advani, the writer/director did to subvert my expectations is amazing. It’s like watching a spy thriller I have never seen before. For example, you will always know when songs are going to come in to punctuate romantic scenes. There is one song, Alvida that comes in at a moment that left my jaw gaping and my eyes watering. I have never seen a song done to such visceral visuals before. Usually I detest including videos that contains spoilers, but I am hoping this one will entice people sitting on the fence with Hindi movies to take a chance. If you are familiar with Bollywood movies, you will know the song and dance numbers are a mainstay, but in all my years of watching Hindi films this is the first time I see a song showcased in this empathetic way. The story-within-story narrative layers coupled with the powerful scenes seething with so much emotions tell you so much.

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