Banners: PVP Cinemas, Matinee Entertainment
Producers: Anvesh Reddy, Jagan Mohan Vancha, Venkatramana Reddy, Pearl V Potluri, Param V Potluri, Kavin Anne
Director: Sankalp Reddy
Cast: Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon, Atul Kulkarni, Taapsee Pannu, Rahul Shingh, Om Puri, Nassar, Milind Gunaji
Writers: Azad Alam (dialogues), Sankalp Reddy (story & screenplay), Gangaraju Gunnam(screenplay), Niranjan Reddy (story & screenplay)
A war film (especially one that is filmed underwater) inspired by true events needs a compelling set of facts that needs to be blended in an equally compelling way with fiction, to come up with a gripping narrative. Debutant director Sankalp Reddy gets full marks for showcasing this story with simplicity and competence. In a nutshell, the film is brilliant in patches and is a praiseworthy effort.
Inspired by true events from the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, the film is a dramatised version of the events that surrounded the Indian Submarine S21 and its team, who remained underwater for 18 days. Led by the rebellious Captain Ranvijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon), his second-in-command Devaraj (Atul Kulkarni) and righteous officer Arjun (Rana Daggubati), S-21 is assigned a classified search mission after sources tip off the Indian Navy of a Pakistani vessel, Ghazi, infiltrating Indian waters.
Ranvijay is a hot-headed captain, who doesn’t shy away from a war and wants to kill the enemy at first sight. Arjun, on the other hand, is ordered to maintain peace and waits for orders. While Devraj tries to be the peacemaker between the two, Pakistani submarine, Ghazi, is planning an attack. Ghazi intends to target India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, so that it can reach Bangladesh by sea. What transpires between these two submarines underwater forms the crux of the story.
Directorially, Reddy impresses with conviction in his storytelling ability. The film is a cinematic experience for the audience and the script is appealing and smart; the major drawback is the dialogue, which is lackluster at times. The film is engrossing but the narrative also seems over-the-top in many scenes. For instance, when Ranvijay whips out a gun to make Arjun follow his orders; and a Bangladeshi refugee ending up in the submarine. Having said that, Reddy uses the sets and locations to the fullest and impresses with his knack of detailing.
The movie opens very well. From the very first scene, you get a sense of poise as the Indian Navy plans its recce mission. Creating an underwater sequence and a submarine is not everyone’s cup of tea but Reddy does it with panache. The thoroughness with which scenes are created is visible in every frame. As for execution, he should have worked a little harder on the screenplay and the narrative.
As a writer, Reddy does overdramatise scenes, taking away from the tone of the film. Cinematography by Madhie is top notch. Editing by A Sreekar Prasad is to the point. With a runtime of 125 minutes, the film drags pre-interval but is a smooth sail in its second half.
Speaking of pace, the first half hour moves very quickly when the characters are introduced but the pace suddenly drops when Ranvijay gets a whiff of Ghazi and wants to attack. He goes a little crazy, which is bizarre.
The momentum picks up again as the interval approaches. And the beginning of the second half is promising, when the attack is gripping and beautifully handled. There are a few scenes that touch your heart too.
Performance-wise, Rana Daggubati is praiseworthy in his part. He lives the character and impresses with his performance. Kay Kay Menon delivers yet another powerful performance. Atul Kulkarni is a perfect fit for his role. Taapsee Pannu impresses with her discreet performance. Rahul Shingh excels in his part. The late Om Puri puts on a brilliant act. Nassar is notable. Milind Gunaji is okay. The rest of the cast does justice to their respective roles.
Verdict: A must watch!