Kabir Khan released the highest grossing film of 2015 as well as the third highest grossing film of Bollywood, Bajrangi Bhaijaan. After the release of Salman starer movie few months later, he announced his next film with Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif in lead roles and that the movie is based on 26/11 terror attacks. The movie is adapted from Hassain Zaidi’s Mumbai avengers, Zaidi is famous for his works which inspired “shootout at Wadala” and “Black friday”. Zaidi’s work is fictional and it is based on the real events. Phantom is fast paced high energy thriller but it lacked the necessities to have the spark. Judging by the fact that the movie was also compared with the quality of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Phantom couldn’t fulfill the audience’s expectations so the film didn’t fare well at the box office. Doing a film like this involved a leap of faith, owing to the fact the most of the cast and crew members are Muslims. But, judging by the YouTube comments under the trailer, Pakistan nationals are the not happy with the way the country is depicted.
The theme centers around the RAW agents planning to have a counter-strike against the terrorists who are responsible for 26/11 terror attacks. Since the terrorists fared from Pakistan, it is necessary to highlight on the fact that the movie is not anti-Pakistan, instead they are just focusing on destroying the masterminds. What follows is the vigilante justice where Capt. Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) is recruited to do this daunting task WITH RAW agent Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) helping him out. Kabir Khan mentioned in the press tour about the fictional nature of this film, and that it will help the survivors and relatives of the 26/11 attack victims to have solace and some closure. He is a spectacular director with a strong vision. I loved all of his previous works (except Ek tha Tiger). This movie had the perfect three-act structure with layers which matches with the succeeding incident. The beginning is enthralling but then we could predict the nature of the incident thanks to the subsequent narration. But in terms of story-line, there are more flaws. RAW and ISI have their own history of antagonism, RAW plans on infiltrating the nation to have the masterminds killed. Was that ethical from India’s part? Also, before killing one of the minds, Daniyal says “India wants justice”. By killing one terrorist, will the whole problem end just like that? Bollywood’s logic behind having a vigilante film is yet to be understood but the only leverage they provide is RAW agent Samit Mishra’s (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) argument which says “All India does is stop playing cricket…”. Along with the RAW agents who seek justice for the stain painted on the nation, Daniyal Khan and Nawaz Mistry have their individual reasons as to why they would go on for a dangerous task, but it lacked soul. Daniyal is fired from the army for abandoning his post and he is looking for retribution for his parents and the nation. Daniyal Khan left the post to find help and because he is only capable person, so to accuse him of abandoning seemed to be over to the top. Nawaz’s intentions are more laughable than genuine. Nawaz’s sees hotel Taj as something very close to her, due to the fact that she used to go there with her father and sister to have tea and chocolate cake. She curses the accused by saying that “they don’t deserve heaven”. Compared to having hundreds dead, seemingly Nawaz is mourning more over the destroyed infrastructure and the childhood. Leaving all that aside, apart from our leads killing the masterminds, have the filmmakers actually given the thought as to how much penetrating the boundaries of a nation will affect its relationship with the other?
Apart from the elements in the story-line and the fact that it is just a fiction, the movie is actually quite thrilling to watch. Until the end we will sit through with anticipation and the ending is touching owing Katrina’s controlled acting and a confession from one of the survivors of 26/11 attack. The movie failed to give a strong lead, Daniyal Khan is an interesting characters with layers to him but Saif Ali Khan couldn’t give justice. He is a versatile actor otherwise, who could blend into any role but he wasn’t good enough to meet expectations. Maybe it is the writing or direction, but one keeps thinking “someone else could have done it better“. His chemistry with Katrina Kaif is mediocre. The scenes where he didn’t have any dialogues, where he just stared or worked on his body language is impressive, notably the jail sequence. But his monologue scenes are forgettable. This is one of the films where I liked Katrina’s acting. I was happy to see her in a role that had nothing to do with her dance skills or sex appeal. We see her in action and doing intelligent moves, though it raises the question; did she have to leave her hair open during war scenes?
Is this the filmmakers move to give her maximum goodlooks? Most negative reviews complained about her presence, highlighting the fact that Katrina is good only for glamorous roles, which is not true. There is more to her and her hard-work can earn her the spot desired. Nawaz just lacked that proper spark as the movie is written for the man to take over. Katrina looked less impressive while she tried to talk sense or show off. Even then, she has her moments and was impressive while the scenario looked dim; like in the scene where one of the Pakistanis who opted to help them commit suicide, her startled reaction is fitting. And the ending scene. If the scene looks impressive it is owed to Kabir Khan’s direction and Katrina’s controlled presence. Maybe someone else could have done this role better in terms of dynamic but she managed to have a steadfast portrayal. I finally saw a film where Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub played a good guy after films like “no one killed Jessica” and “Tanu weds Manu returns”. He was good and stood out during the screen-time. The person who stole the show is definitely Shahnawaz Pradhan the one who played the fictional version of Hafiz Saeed. His body language and mannerisms were all apt. The actors who played the ISI agents also delivered steadfast performance. The background score is impressive. The cinematographic style and fast editing have Kabir Khan’s signature all over it. I have not read Mumbai avengers so, no analysis from that aspect. What the movie failed to deliver is the expectations from the audience, as at the end of the day, one cannot accept vigilante justice as it do not guarantee the end of terrorism and its threats, above all, peace between two nations. Phantom is a good entertainer but forgettable.
Featured image: youtube.com