Film: Romeo Akbar Walter (Action, Drama, Thriller)
Critic’s Rating: 2.5/5
Cast: John Abraham, Mouni Roy, Jackie Shroff, Raghubir Yadav and Sikander Kher
Direction: Robbie Grewal
Written by: Robbie Grewal
Duration: 2 hrs 30 minutes
Language: Hindi (U/A)
Story: It’s 1971. When he’s not manning a bank counter, Rehmat Ali aka Romeo (John Abraham) acts on stage. Convinced by his performance as an old man, Shrikant Rai, Director, Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) (Jackie Shroff) tests him further. Pleased with his quick thinking, he asks him to follow in his late father’s footsteps. He asks Romeo to join RAW. Romeo becomes Akbar Ali, a hotel staffer in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and is asked to infiltrate the Pak establishment. The story is reportedly inspired by an ex-RAW agent who played a major role in India’s win against Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Review: In the current volatile scenario between India and Pakistan, Romeo Akbar Walter (titled after John’s characters’ names), had a lot of potential. But the film fails because of its amateurish approach.
By now all of us know how spies operate. The basics have been drilled into us by far superior movies like Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi (2018), which is still bringing Alia Bhatt accolades and awards. However, RAW, which is a pale cousin of Raazi, is at a disadvantage because of this very reason. It appears like a poor copy. John has said in media reports that the film entertains and not educates. Frankly, where does it entertain?
Considering the sentiments addressed in all espionage dramas are the same – get into enemy camp and get us “secrets” to save our nation – at least the makers should tell it to us in a novel fashion. The intention is applaud-worthy. But every time someone makes a film on the subject, they should also attempt to put their heart and soul into it. Sorry, RAW offers just surface-level emotions.
When Romeo, who becomes Akbar, enters enemy territory, the tension just doesn’t translate. You are not on-the-edge-of-your-seat when John is roaming around Pakistan trying to give his superior Rai sensitive info. And this is the film’s biggest flaw.
As the espionage thriller’s lead actor, John, who plays a cucumber-cool spy, stays within character. But he is let down by mediocre writing and amateur direction. As a result, the pace is sluggish. The twists and turns don’t hold. Even the sole chase sequence seems to drag. Add to that the revelations are followed by explanations of how and why. Where are we? In Kindergarten?
Nothing you haven’t seen before, even in duds like Agent Vinod (2012), are repeated. It’s the same set of ghisa-pita (stale) situations. The alteration of John’s character from a momma’s boy to the country’s biggest spy hero is shown merely through some hairstyles.
In fact, even the ’70s is only depicted through some badly-styled wigs and bell-bottom trousers.
Jackie Shroff passes muster as RAW chief, while Mouni Roy doesn’t have much to do except look good. Sikander Kher as ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) Col Khudabaksh Khan is plastic. Amjad Khan’s son Shadaab Khan shows up in a small role after 18 long years. See if you recognise the boy who started as hero to Rani Mukerji in Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (1997).
Swapnil Bhalerao and Madhur Madhavan have recreated the period convincingly while cinematographer Tapan Basu does a competent job of capturing the proceedings well. Rabbi Shergill’s new Bulleya track has some magic.
Verdict: Toss a coin; do you want new Ra(w) or not-so-new Ra(azi!)