As Major Vihaan yelled, “How’s the josh?”, officers yelled, “High Sir!”. I couldn’t agree more as I left the cinema hall with more enthusiasm.
As the camera flies over a forest cover showing the greenery, it almost felt like Director Aditya Dhar is giving us a moment of relaxation as what follows after that is a gruesome incident. Uri, Aditya Dhar’s directorial debut, drops us in that green cover in the very beginning as we land at a place where a group of insurgents are ambushing a military convoy. This callous and ghastly incident gives us an idea of what we are about to witness in this film.
Based on ‘surgical strikes’ that were conducted by India in 2016, the film does not dive straight into the planning and the strategies that were formed before the operation. Instead, we see it gradually building up through the eyes of Major Vihaan Singh Shergill (Vicky Kaushal). It’s the year 2015 and Major Vihaan has just successfully combated terrorists in the North-Eastern part of India (which is depicted in the first chapter ‘The Seven Sisters’ and the film is divided into five chapters in total) and even congratulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Rajit Kapur) at a felicitation event. We see how Major Vihaan winds up leading the surgical strike operation and comes out triumphant.
Different chapters accompany itself with different emotions and most of them are perfectly captured. There is a feeling of grisliness and triumph in the first chapter The Seven Sisters. We can sense the shock in the face of Major Vihaan when his mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, has just spoken to him and moments later fails to recall about his arrival in the chapter The Unsettling Peace. We are frozen with horror witnessing the attack by terrorists on Indian armed forces and we feel the agony inside Major Vihaan when he is in tears during the funeral of Major Karan (Mohit Raina performed with aplomb in this brief appearance) in the chapter Bleed India with a Thousand Cuts.
Even though the film recuses itself from Bollywood’s idea of patriotic films (those boisterous calls for ‘’hamla!” (Attack!)), there are instances where it feels visceral and did involve tempestuous outbursts. And there is a cinematic touch to it as well that sort of undermined the realism. To Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for suggestions in response to Uri attack, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (Paresh Rawal is excellent in this role) promptly advises ‘surgical strike’ as the retaliatory option and everybody in the meeting simply agree to that with no further discussion (Didn’t any healthy discussion take place even for a minute? That’s the cinematic experience for you). Even Major Vihaan does not just shoot the terrorist but he emotionally reminds him of Major Karan and all those who died in Uri attack, injures his leg, stuffs a bomb inside his butts and walks ahead heroically as the terrorist explodes behind him.
There are characters who do not have much screen time but do leave a mark. Kirti Kulhari as Pilot Seerat Kaur does well to exhibit sentiment in this transient presence. Yami Gautam as a RAW agent looks at ease when she shows the affection while taking care of Major Vihaan’s mother and keeps a stern face while interrogating terrorists.
The cinematic touch to the film did not quite go well with me. I felt the requirement for more realism in a film that is based on real events and is not a typical Indian masala film. But Uri remained very engaging with a lot of “josh” (zeal). As Major Vihaan yelled, “How’s the josh?”, officers yelled, “High Sir!”. I couldn’t agree more as I left the cinema hall with more enthusiasm.