Director: Ahishor Solomon
Cast: Nagarjuna, Dia Mirza, Saiyami Kher
As Vijay Varma (Nagarjuna Akkineni) and his boys, Hashwanth (Pradeep), Caleb (Mayank Parakh), Ali (Ali Reza), and Rudra (Prakash Sudarshan), get down from their car to greet a friend in a secluded spot, they get attacked by a bunch of armed men. They were expecting to shake hands and not scatter away in fear.
Varma and his boys are naturally taken by surprise. Why are they even getting welcomed by guns and chaos in the first place? They're in Nepal, which means that the terrain is new for them. They run hither and thither in search of a shelter that'll keep them safe. Wouldn't they at least need a couple of minutes to come up with a befitting idea?
We know what holds the group together: it's the passion towards their job and nation. But there's one person we haven't yet gotten a glimpse of and that's Arya (Saiyami Kher) — Kher gets a stunning entry scene, which is no less than what a male A-lister gets in a mainstream Telugu film.
Arya saves the day and helps the Indian men breathe a sigh of relief. The game is not over, though. It has perhaps just begun. Wild Dog, which has been inspired from true events, is an action thriller that treats the villains (aka terrorists) with bullets. The dialogues are short and crispy, like fresh potato chips. They do turn soggy sometimes, especially when Varma takes the stage, but they are, thankfully, just a handful.
Varma is an officer who works for the NIA (National Investigation Agency). The trope of the tortured artist comes up in the movie every now and then. However, since the protagonist is not an artist, he constantly worries about not being able to protect India. But he doesn't throw random objects at people, or walk away from meetings in a huff.
His daughter gets killed in a bomb blast and it hurts him daily to think that he cannot get her back. Wild Dog doesn't pirouette away from the core of its story too much. And that's truly a blessing. Imagine how silly it'd have been had Varma wallowed in misery while chasing a terrorist. He would have put the lives of his juniors at risk. And, on the flip side, if there had been a romantic song, it'd have cut into the drama and turned the pace upside down.
The makers must have taken strong decisions while writing the movie. It's not easy to rope in a star and make an unconventional thriller. All that can be considered fluff has been topically removed from the action scenes. There are no slow-motion shots that'll make you gawk at the hero's larger-than-life image. And, more importantly, the four men that Varma trusts do their work without being nudged.
In a funny-yet-unavoidable mishap that occurs around the midpoint of the film, Varma and his boys lose sight of the terrorist that they have been trying to capture, as another police force creates a bit of confusion at the last minute. If these two organizations had worked together carefully, they could have caught the terrorist and produced him in court. They could have even walked away with laurels.
Whenever an Indian film revolves around Muslim terrorists, the director tries to project another Muslim as a good man. Here, the good Muslim man is, predictably, Ali. But Wild Dog doesn't give lectures on Islam and Quran. It lets the terrorists be terrorists without making a hullabaloo about their religion. Nobody gives a speech about how great our country is, or how fat our legacy is. Rohit Shetty might do that with his upcoming Hindi film Sooryavanshi. If you have any doubts about this, just watch the trailer.
Wild Dog doesn't take an ideological stand anywhere. The Muslim terrorist is associated with the Indian Mujahideen (a banned organization that has been involved in several bomb blasts). There is, nevertheless, a shot that features a Hindu God in an angry avatar – it's an image that the Hindutva brigade has adopted in recent times. But its political ambitions do not venture beyond that boundary.
If you take a look at the religious identities of Varma's boys, you get a devout Christian who wears a cross around his neck and a Muslim who risks his life to gather information about illegal activities. These matters are deliberately highlighted to make the film look secular. The plurality of India cannot be seen on documents alone. They need to somehow come out in these forms.
Officer (2018), directed by Ram Gopal Varma, also had a wild dog in the lead – somebody who doesn't give a damn about the procedure and uses his gun to do the talking. But Akkineni wasn't supported by a commendable script there. Here, he lets his hair down and believes in the strength of his team. And, oddly, it works.