- Release Date: 05/03/2019
- Director: Robbie Grewal
- Cast: John Abraham, Jackie Shroff, Sikandar Kher, Mouni Roy, Anil George, Raghubir Yadav.
Romeo Akbar Walter begins with a battered and bloody John Abraham looking at you from the screen leaving you imagining what has led him to be in that position. It is the kind of opening that will immediately get you hooked and my hopes truly soared. The film then takes us back in time to show us how Romeo (John Abraham) a simple bank employee with some dramatic skills to go with, is recruited by the Research And Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Shrikant Rai (Jackie Shroff) to travel to Pakistan and be India’s eyes and ears there. It is a time when war seems imminent over the rebellion in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The year is 1971. Romeo has no one else but an overprotecting and doting mother to call family.
His father was a decorated Army officer and he wanted to join the army too but his mother forced him to stay away from it. So when he finally gets a chance to do something substantial for his nation, he doesn’t think twice before lying to his mother and stepping into a country that he might not leave alive. As we are watching all this, the first sequence is still lingering in our minds and we know that Romeo will end up being bashed to near death. Thus, no matter how poorly John enacts these portions where he has to be all sweety-sweet with his mother and his inability to play anything other than “stoic” is exposed, we are able to take it in the stride.
Romeo arrives in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir where he is re-christened Akbar Malik and asked to tail a weapon’s dealer Isaq Afridi (Anil George) with unquestionable clout in the Pakistani Army. The man even shares an intimate bond with the chief of the Pakistan Army which helps him to always pocket the big deals. Akbar uses his intellect to get in the good books of Afridi and soon makes his way to Karachi where he is slated to join Afridi’s company. Once in Karachi, Akbar is introduced to the other members of the RAW lying undetected and who are meant to help him in his endeavors.
Akbar gradually grows in stature within Afridi’s company and it is only a matter of time before he becomes Afridi’s, right-hand man. He uses his position to smuggle out extremely important information to the RAW who now realize that Pakistan is on the verge of carrying out a strike on the secluded village of Badlipur which would not only annihilate the rebellion in East Pakistan but would make Pakistan an all-powerful and constant enemy to reckon with in the East.
This portion of the film works well. Akbar is a stoic and one-dimensional character who doesn’t show any expressions whatsoever. He is trained to be devoid of any excitement or anxiety and it really helps John essay him naturally as his natural demeanor is one of very little expression. He successfully slips under the skin of the character and oozes realism. The fact that the set up to the various set pieces in this portion made some sense helps sustain the interest and believability of the audience. I also loved the look and feel of this portion. I am someone who doesn’t have much of an idea about the 1970s era and hence the chances of me finding flaws was meager to start with. Add to that a lot of nostalgia that is on display here and the feel was bound to affect me.
Isaq Afridi’s monopoly on the arms deals earns him his share of enemies. His son and the Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army are trying to overthrow him from his privileged position so that they can dip their beaks in the spoils of war. They try to get Akbar’s help in doing so. Akbar denies and thus begins his troubles with the Pakistani Army. He comes under the radar of Afridi’s enemies led by Colonel Khan (Sikandar Kher) who puts him on surveillance and is precariously close to unraveling his secrets. However, before that can be done, something terrible happens that not only puts everything that Akbar achieved thus far in jeopardy but also makes him the most wanted man in Karachi. When he turns for help to chief Shrikant, he drops him like dead weight.
Romeo Akbar Walter would have been a great film had the director, who is also the writer taken the story seriously and not added some absolutely terrible scenes, characters and situations that destroy the film’s credibility. To start with, the character of Mouni Roy who plays a RAW agent is grossly misplaced. She has little to no bearing on the story and the tale would have been tighter and more believable without her. Her Romance with John at a time when all eyes are on his character felt so awkward and cringe-worthy that it landed like a punch in the solar plexus for me. Jackie Shroff plays the RAW chief proficiently but the dialogues that are given to him could easily have been thought out better. It would have served the film better to have had a more realistic approach to his interactions with John. This was a problem all throughout the film. Extremely sensitive matters are discussed in public places in a language that is known and spoken locally. This is just stupid.
John Abraham is a good leading man because he is trying. As Akbar Malik, he nails the character and thankfully majority of the film has him as Akbar. The initial portion of the film which has him as Romeo was painfully fake. Be it his hair, his awkward tender moments with his mom that really gets on your nerves or his attempt at romance. None of it works. However, as Akbar Malik, he becomes a whole new beast. Sikandar Kher as the Colonel after Akbar works well. The only stickler about his act is his shifty accent. I believe in a film like this, it’s the director’s job to ensure consistency. You either go all the way with the accent or you don’t at all. Landing up half way between the two can be a dicey thing. Raghubir Yadav is wonderful in the little portions that he gets. Interestingly, in his presence, John’s game rises a few levels too. Anil George is warm and charming.
Romeo Akbar Walter really stretches the believability factor with its amateurish treatment and that for more than once brings down the film. Just imagine who would name a Pakistani National Walter Khan? Who in their sane minds would name an Indian Muslim Romeo? This is the kind of substandard writing that spoils the film time and again. The only reason for those names would have been to rhyme better with RAW. It really doesn’t make much sense to do that. The fact also remains that the film has very little happening in terms of plot development in the middle and it winds up rather abruptly towards the end tying off loose ends hurriedly and leaving a lot to be desired. The makers had their heart in the right place with this film but just didn’t give the idea enough thought to develop into an affecting story. A story like this should have moved people but it ends up being just entertaining in portions and plain bad in some others.
Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)