om

Director: Kapil Verma
Writers: Raj Saluja, Niket Pandey
Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjana Sanghi, Jackie Shroff, Ashutosh Rana
Cinematographer: Vineet Malhotra
Editor: Kamlesh Parui

It’s poetic injustice. On the day the ultra-Right brigade of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ‘rebel’ wing of Shiv Sena moved swiftly to hijack power in  Maharashtra, it took me two hours in the notorious Mumbai rains to reach home – drenched clothes, squeaky shoes, throbbing head – after watching an atrocious Bollywood action movie in which its only Muslim character enthusiastically chants “Jai Bhavani” along with his fellow commandos; screams “Hari Om” to summon the film’s patriotic hero; loses one leg and finally shoots himself in the chest for the country. This is not a drill. Yet, Rashtra Kavach Om (translation: Shield of the Nation) is such a fundamentally daft movie that even its saffronism feels half-hearted. Hindu nationalism is the least of its problems. Its first proud punchline is “I’m not sure about death, but I’m dead sure about Om”. There’s no coming back from wordplay like that.

Like most self-respecting bad movies, Rashtra Kavach Om is about a supersoldier who loses his short-term memory, but retains his long-term memory after a bullet pierces his brain. (I’ve never seen bullets as useless as the ones in this film, but that’s a story for another rainy day). His condition sounds perilously close to what viewers might wish they have after losing two precious hours of their lives to this film. Anyhow, I digress. Actually, no, it’s hard to digress from a film that digresses so far from mercy, quality, logic and basic storytelling. 

The soldier, Om, wakes up after being in a coma for three months. Like most action heroes who stay bedridden without losing an ounce of muscle, all six packs of Om wait till his pretty caretaker unleashes her martial arts skills, saves his life and secures his escape until he asks her who she is. He doesn’t remember her, his bosses from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), a mission called Kavach, the film he’s in. He does remember his childhood, a nuclear-scientist father (Jackie Shroff), a burning house. He sets out to find this father, who was declared a traitor for fleeing with blueprints of a cutting-edge defense technology called – you guessed it – Kavach. Needless to mention, Om shields everyone except the audience that watches him. 

I have many questions, none of which are relevant in the grand scheme of things. Is Prakash Raj’s shock-and-awe face patented yet? Was there a clause in his contract that stated he would be paid extra every time he screamed “Damn it!” while punching the air with his fists? Will Adidas be pleased when he assures Om that “Impossible is nothing”? Does Ashutosh Rana insist on pronouncing “memory” as “mammary” as some sort of crude in-joke? If not, why does he pronounce every other word perfectly? When a loved one is shot in the back and collapses in Om’s sculpted arms, does he not feel the need to stop weeping and wonder where the bullets came from? Does it ever matter where any bullet comes from in this film? 

I’m not done with the questions. When a mother feeds her son kheer to bring back his memory, why must it look like there’s Oedipal tension between them? Is it prudent to eat kheer before a deadly mission? Why does Aditya Roy Kapur have to wait two hours to go shirtless with a machine gun in his hands (pun unintended)? Why does Om look like he’s modelling for the latest Army Fatigue style collection? Is Ahmed Khan the director (Heropanti 2) worse than Ahmed Khan the producer (Rashtra Kavach Om)? Is it normal to miss John Abraham, Tiger Shroff and Vidyut Jammwal all at once? Must a group of clients watching a weapons demo always have the exact same diversity featuring an African man, Arab sheikh, Russian lady and European gangster? Why does the giant plothole have a bit of film in it?

Just a few more questions. When the villain thinks he’s defeated the hero only for the hero to reveal that he was one step ahead all along, why does this invariably mean that the hero’s gang is quietly waiting on one side to take control? How long were they standing there for? Were they patiently waiting for the hero to point to them? How does the villain not notice them arrive from the corner of his eye? Is peripheral vision not a thing? Were they standing there even when the villain had the upper hand? If not, how does the timing work? Do they train for this dramatic reveal? I’m not sure about death, but I’m dead sure about asking so many questions in a single review. Rashtra Kavach Om has no answers and questionable bullets. After all, there’s no coming back from a title like that. 

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