Monday, 30th October 2017

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Romeo Akbar Walter goes from terrible to acceptable, like the hero’s hairstyle

Even with all the heroic patriotism, this is not a spy movie to rave about

  • Published 5.04.19, 11:26 PM
  • Updated 8.04.19, 4:26 PM
  • 3 mins read
Mouni Roy and John Abraham in Romeo Akbar Walter A still from the film

If only director-writer Robbie Grewal had made the script tighter, cut the flab and thrown in some logic, Romeo Akbar Walter would have been as muscular as the film’s hero John Abraham’s chiselled chest.

Better than some of the recent patriotic Bolly outings — in fact, not many will be able to predict the twist at the end — the fate of this film set during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War changes with the hairstyle of John’s Romeo who morphs into Akbar and finally Walter, that is, from terrible to bad to acceptable.

What begins as the story of a bank teller with a nine-to-five life — complete with a girlfriend (played by Mouni Roy) — is turned upside down when a staged robbery takes place at his workplace. Instead of handing over the keys to the locker, he takes the “goon” by the neck, only to find himself at the next stage of his life.

Enter Jackie Shroff’s Srikant Rai, the RAW chief, with his well-kept beard, superior accent and a stash of cigars. As an aside, there are enough cigarettes, cigars and alcohol scenes to make reformed addicts get the familiar urge. Anyway. Srikant makes Romeo believe that he’s cut out for the secret service and should be an integral part of a mission to thwart a sinister plan hatched by Pakistan to bomb Badlipur (where the Mukti Bahini is receiving military training) in East Pakistan.

Romeo agrees and logic goes out of the window. His life turned upside down, he returns home to ever-loving Ammi, whose late husband was in the Army. In no time Romeo fills up the proverbial bucket with tears because Ammi can’t know the truth. The last hug given. The last goodbyes exchanged. The last glimpse of her caught. Romeo dies to be reborn as Akbar.

In two months, a bank teller becomes a toughened spy for RAW. Yes, just two months is what it takes to not just learn to use weapons but also to hit the bullseye, learn to read coded messages and understand the workings of the organisation. He even manages to become the right- and left-hand man of a Pakistani arms dealer (Anil George as Isaq Afridi)… more important than the dealer’s own son.

Instead of rattling the story, it’s sufficient to say that the who’s who of the Pakistani army get involved and a ruckus follows, complete with a trip taking Akbar to Nepal and to East Pakistan.

This is Bollywood and films seem incomplete without songs and a sexy girlfriend. The film is set in 1971 but the songs have the feel of 2012, ’13, ’14... you get the drift, right?! Then there’s a bit of love, sex and dhoka (no, the dhoka is not on the part of his girlfriend... not fully!), portrayed shoddily. Mouni’s character is a complete waste and Anil George, however good, has been underused.

In way of action, John Abraham has his Tom Cruise moment, running through lanes, over rooftops and holding his breath underwater in a choubacha… we mean a reservoir! The close-up shots of his bloodied face give a feel — and only a feel — of a paisa-vasool spy thriller. Boy, the man is fit even at 46!

Wish we could say the same about the editing, camerawork or the art direction. Except for a few classic cars and baggy shirts, one really does not get the feel of 1971. At 140 minutes, the film drags in intervals, like the coded ramblings of the RAW chief, the useless party scene, the equally useless bedroom scene and the equally, equally useless emotional scenes.

It’s the final 20 minutes that make the film save itself from absolute boredom… the moment the RAW chief-to-be understands the role of Romeo, Akbar and, finally, Walter.

Even with all the heroic patriotism, this is not a spy movie to rave about. And if you really want to watch it in spite of our many warnings, make sure the refreshments at the theatre are good enough to redeem your money’s worth.