Movie: Mission Istaanbul; Director: Apoorva Lakhia; Cast: Zayed Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Shabbir Ahluwalia, Shreya Saran, Sunil Shetty
We’re all aware of this kind of films—lots of maar-dhaad, swaggering heroes impossibly taking on an army of bad guys, hot women, a misleadingly attractive film title that almost leads you on to believe that the film could be hat-ke. But I believe the audience know better than to fall yet again for smart promos that cunningly offer more to the film.
Vikas Sagar (Zayed Khan, what an improvement), who we learn is “India’s number one journalist”, is off to Istanbul to take up a job at the Al Johara channel in Istaanbul, Turkey, that often breaks stories related to terrorism. His wife Anjali (Shriya Saran, ho-hum) sobs at the divorce court, “I am a journalist too but I was ready to give up everything for you. You couldn’t even come an hour early to be with me.” She then warns her husband against joining an organisation that clearly serves as the “terrorists’ mouth-piece”. Interestingly, he calls her dumbo, a nick-name she eventually lives up to; how, is for you to find out.
The editor of this channel, Ghazni Hakkan (Nikitin Dheer), himself is a suspect and also suffers a bout of seriously questionable dressing. Sometimes he’s wearing a bow-tie in the office; and at other times, he has flowers pinned to his suit that match the colour to his tie. This man, we are led to believe, heads this channel that has a curious 13th floor, the access to which demands finger print identification. The channel’s office, in a fancy-shmanzy building, also has a disturbing `Hall of Martyrs’ that hangs photos of dead journalists who lost their lives breaking terrorism-related stories. Some morale-booster this!
For more gimmicks, poor Omar Abdullah (for real) has been convinced and coerced to appear in the film as an interviewee. The main bad guy Abu Nazir, an Osama Bin Laden rip-off, is played by sleepy-eyed, messy haired Shabbir Ahluwalia. You’ve seen this look on the actor a hundred times in one of those boring serials. About the only ray of hope I saw in the film was a brutal scene where Nazir and his men, who form an organisation like the Taliban, are stoning a woman to death. One hoped that the film would attempt making a comment here, but the scene served as an excuse for the hero to get into a hand-to-hand scuffle with the terrorists.
Several unnecessary fights later, Vivek Oberoi playing Rizwan, floats behind Vikas and mysteriously whispers, `your life is in danger’. Rizwan is sort of a one-man army who also has a limited vocabulary mainly comprising words like bro, dude, cool etc. He says ‘yea baby, lets rock’ when facing an army of people there to clobber him. He also exclaims `we look good, man’ when identified as criminals on television.
There’s also a girl (Shweta Bharadwaj), a RAW agent, who appears and disappears and changes sides. One gathers she’s mainly been recruited for the “hot chick” element even as she’s wearing black leather so tight you wonder if it was sewn on, on her.
One of the more important scenes in the film —the big revelation where one of the main characters turns out to be a traitor, takes place in a perplexing premise with all the characters bare-chested in red –checked lungis. You cannot help a chortle where the filmmaker intended to be serious, and this is a recurrent pattern in the film. Another aspect I think the makers are trusting to be the draw of the film is the George Bush look-alike, played by a reluctant actor who looks like he’s being punished for the resemblance. The small role tries to make fun of Bush’s legendary foolishness as his people inform him of a “situation in Turkey” and we see the President wondering if there’s anything wrong with the bird. We’re also supposed to snigger at the fact that he’s reading a book called India and practicing pronouncing Man-mo-han Singh before an imminent trip. Call it poor attempt at satire or taking the audience for granted, this scene just doesn’t cut any ice. The dialogue has clearly not been seen though and through. Sample this one – “bahut paap kiye hai tune. Download karne main time lagega”.
Slowly but surely the continuous music makes you beg for some aural relief. The terrorist screams like a wounded hyena. The story cuts abruptly for an item song with an out-of-shape star and once over, we’re back to the story with full vengeance.
The central actors give fair performances. Oberoi is handicapped by a seriously caricaturish presentation but he does ok. Zayed Khan, probably told not to giggle boyishly like he always does, is actually quite good. Technically, the film is competent, but it’s effort gone waste for lack of story-telling conviction. Director Apoorva Lakhia needs to reinvent within this genre, if he must stick to it. The formula of guns, bombs, bad buys and babes is gone (I say this with some trepidation and with fingers crossed).