Director: Kapil Verma
Writers: Raj Saluja, Niket Pandey
Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjana Sanghi, Jackie Shroff, Ashutosh Rana
Cinematographer: Vineet Malhotra
Editor: Kamlesh Parui
Rashtra Kavach Om is the sort of film in which the hero can hold down an airborne helicopter with the sheer strength of his biceps. The last time I saw this was in Satyamev Jayate, except there we had three John Abrahams (though to be fair, one was a ghost). Here, it's a solitary Aditya Roy Kapur. But Rashtra Kavach Om belongs to the same cinematic school of sublime ridiculousness.
Om (Kapur) we are told is the most powerful para-commando the force has ever produced. So a bullet embedded one inch inside his brain only results in amnesia. In this film, bullets have selective impact. In the climax, three key people are shot. The least important one in terms of screen-time dies, but within seconds, the other two – one has a bullet in the shoulder and the other, in the stomach — are standing, fighting and chatting.
For much of the film, Om is trying to figure out who he is, the relationship between him, his real father — who was a nuclear scientist and may or may not have been a traitor — and his foster father and mother. There's also a female colleague who is some sort of a medically trained para-commando. She nurses Om back to health, but when required, she can also take down a room full of attackers. This was fun to watch though little about Sanjana Sanghi, who plays Kavya, suggests that she can actually do this. There are hints that Om and Kavya are romantically-inclined, but debutant director Kapil Verma doesn't waste time fleshing this out.
Kapil's IMDb credits include being a steadicam operator on films like War (2019), Race 3 (2018) and Baaghi 3 (2020). The big ambition of Rashtra Kavach Om is to deliver a rousing action spectacle. Aditya Roy Kapur, with an impressively beefed-up body, looks the part. His face remains impassive whether Om is eating kheer with his doting mom or plunging knives into bad guys. But I assumed that was his take on being a lethal killing machine. There are key scenes, however, in which Om gets emotional. This film shows us that even the toughest soldier in the middle of a life-threatening situation can get teary. It is, as Karan Johar taught us two decades ago, all about loving your parents.
Rashtra Kavach Om starts out with twists and intrigue, but writers Niket Pandey and Raj Saluja lose their grip with alarming speed. Soon the film becomes a contest of what is sillier – could it be that the para commandos say "Jai Bhavani" to each other before embarking on a mission? Or that there is an Iron Man-style auction of ground-breaking weapon technology, which is literally a kavach? Or that Jackie Shroff, as Om's father, is a nuclear scientist named Dev who wears impossibly stylish jackets and sunglasses? Or that the commandos, without any discernible clues, somehow land up in Armenia. Or that in the climax, the bad guys helpfully rip off Om's shirt (Salman Khan style) so we can admire his sculpted body.
One of my favourite things in films like this is the international bad guys. To give the villains a global touch, directors usually assemble foreign junior artists, who are supposed to be menacing but usually just end up providing laughs. Keep an eye out here for the group of Asian weapon buyers who stand around looking confused as Om destroys everything in the vicinity. It's hilarious.
And that's pretty much the kindest thing I can say about this film – it made me laugh.