AVRODH : THE SIEGE WITHIN (2020)

Amit Sadh in a still from Avrodh: The Siege Within
  • Release Date: 31/06/2020
  • Cast: Amit Sadh, Darshan Kumar, Neeraj Kabi, Vikram Gokhle, Madhurima Tuli
  • Director: Raj Acharya

Avrodh could have been great but misses its mark because of lackluster execution and some poor performances

On 18th September 2016, Pakistan backed terrorists of Jaish-E-Mohammad attacked the Indian Army Base camp at Uri and killed 19 soldiers in their sleep. The 4 terrorists were gunned down by the army in retaliatory action but that was hardly retribution enough for the army and the nation as a whole. The country and the army were searing with anger and heightened emotions for the fallen heroes and an insatiable urge to deliver swift justice to what was left of the dastardly terrorists in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The Prime Minister realized and respected the emotions running high in the nation and ordered a surgical strike on the terrorist launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir that was used to launch the attacks on Uri. This was out of nature for a country that had been coaxed or bullied into non-action for ages. India was changing and the actions of the army documented this changing face of India.

Avrodh documents this glorious episode of the Indian Army’s retaliation in its entirety. The story starts from the genesis of the attack that was a result of the elimination of Burhan Wani (name changed here to Bilawal) and the rousing urge for revenge among the terrorists. We see how the Bihar Regiment of the Army led by Major Raunac Gautam (Darshan Kumaar) hunts down and guns down Wani and some of his associates like dogs in the street. The anti-national elements use this operation to fuel riots and protests in the valley using extremist elements and people who would happily stone the army that defends them for a few counterfeit Indian currency notes. The Bihar regiment is unperturbed by it as is depicted in an inspiring scene where Major Gautam literally walks past the stone pelters without any of them having the guts to look him in the eye, let alone sabotage his passage.

Neeraj Kabi in a still from Avrodh: The Siege Within

The Bihar Regiment takes over the charge of the Uri base from the Dogra Regiment but on the night of the handover, the sinister attack is carried out. Major Gautam loses one of his closest and dearest friends. He is seething with anger and thirst for retribution even after he has tracked down and eliminated all the perpetrators. Gautam also pursues some leads on the incident and uncovers a lot of information pertaining to the attacks. The government sends in the National Investigation Agency led by Ali Raza (Arif Zakaria) to investigate the attack and iron out any mistakes that could lead to future catastrophes. At about the same time, the National Security Advisor, Shailesh (Neeraj Kabi) gets the Prime Minister’s nod for the Surgical Strikes. The General Officer Commanding of the Northern Command brings in Major Videep Singh (Amit Sadh) to plan the mission and submit a detailed plan within 36 hours for the PM’s Approval.

The director, Raj Acharya brings a lot of information to the table that was previously not accessed in films like Uri: The Surgical Strike. Most of it feels like the truth but the problem is in the manner in which it is laid out which puts some question marks on its validity. My first issue with the series was with the timing of the Uri attack as it was shown in the series. I know for certain that the attack was carried out between 5:00 am to 5: 30 am in the morning as per news reports and multiple accounts. This inaccuracy made me question a lot of things that they showed in the series from that point onwards. My doubt on the content of the series came as a shock to myself as the series is based on a chapter of the book “India’s Most Fearless” by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh. The authenticity of the content should have been beyond questions but that is not the case here because of the somewhat lackluster execution.

Anil George in a still from Avrodh: The Siege Within

Amit Sadh as Videep Singh comes in pretty late but once he is introduced, he practically hijacks the narrative with his infectious charm and wonderful rendering of a Special Forces commando. He not only looks the part but also gives the right vibes characterizing the man that he plays in almost every sequence that he is a part of. I really liked the scene where he meets the team that he has selected for the mission. In this scene, he feels so natural and organic that that same energy and naturality rubs on to the other sequences that he shares with these men over the course of the series. Sadh throws in a lot of jargons from time to time and he uses them with the kind of confidence and ease that gives us the notion that it has been a part of his vocabulary for a long time. Darshan Kummar is my next favorite. He has the stoic attitude that serves the character of Gautam very well and adds a sense of realism to his essay. His portions in the series are limited after the initial bits and I feel that he should have been given a little more screen time. It would have helped the series.

Neeraj Kabi is a fantastic actor and as the NSA he scores big time. Not only is he supremely in command of the character, but he also brings in his own little additions to the role that goes on to enhance the feel and realism of his essay. Arif Zakaria as the NIA investigator breaths fire albeit in the most subtle manner possible. I didn’t have the faintest notion that he could play a character like this with so much charisma but he did and he left me speechless. Anil George as the leader of Jaish-E-Mohammad is perfect. He has played similar characters (Romeo Akbar Walter, Uri) in the past and he knows every beat of it. He uses his prior experience of similar characters and gives the villain a definitive touch and feel. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that his interpretation and essay of the antagonist is better than what this series deserved.

Madhurima Tuli in a still from Avrodh: The Siege Within

Avrodh introduces us to the so-called “free media angle” on the Army operations in the valley using the character of Namrata played by Madhurima Tuli. She starts off as a powerful TV Journalist who is hell-bent on showing how atrociously the army is subjugating the free people of Kashmir and goes to the extent of doing an interview with the commander of Jaish-E-Mohammad that she puts on prime time. She constantly meddles with the operations using her sources in the valley to put out news that jeopardizes the success of missions and risks the lives of the men involved in those missions. Soon She is caught off guard by the NSA and put out of the equation for good but not before she is handed over a clue to unlocking a story that would not only show her the Indian Army for what it is but also explain why an iron grip is required in the Kashmir Valley. Madhurima does a fine job with the character even though she lacks a sense of urgency in certain scenes.

Unfortunately, all the other actors including the great Vikram Gokhale fail in extracting any reverence for their respective characters. This dents the affectivity of the series considerably and doesn’t let the audience take some important portions of the series for what they are. There must have been some major budget constraints for filming the explosions because every explosion in the series looks crappy and fake. I cannot stress enough on how terribly it dents some of the key sequences. The director also couldn’t forego the fatal Bollywood-ish affinity to delivering clap worthy lines before eliminating an enemy which, in this case, was blasphemous.

The makers of Avrodh had their hearts in the right place but lacked the drive and craft to convert their passion into a living breathing series that was devoid of any flaw. For a material of this kind, any potential flaw is catastrophic and that is why even some of its minor flaws presented themselves as scathing wounds. Having said that, I still believe that anyone who enjoyed Uri: The Surgical Strike will have a good time with this series. It has a lot more to show and offer on the same story even though it doesn’t get any better than the underwhelming film.

Rating 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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