Film: ‘Operation Romeo (Running in Theatres); Duration: 135 minutes
Director: Shashant Shah; Cast: Sidhant Gupta, Vedika Pinto, Sharad Kelkar, Kishore Kadam, Bhumika Chawala, Navni Parihar
IANS Rating: ***1/2
This film is a romantic suspense thriller that gives you an insight into toxic masculinity.
Adapted from the Malayalam film ‘Ishq – Not a love story’ directed by Anuraj Manohar and inspired by true events, the takeaway of the film invariably appears as a modern version of ‘Sita’s Pariksha’ from the Ramayana.
Set in Mumbai, Sidhant Gupta essays the role of Aditya Sharma aka Adi, the modern-day Ram, who is a fabulous caricaturist working with an IT firm. He is a devoted son, a loving brother, and is crazily in love with the college-going Neha, to the point of being near possessive.
Vedika Pinto portrays Neha, the cute and timid girl from Rajasthan, studying in Mumbai and living in a hostel. She reciprocates Adi’s emotion with equal fervour.
On Vedika’s nineteenth birthday, the two of them decide to spend time together. They go for a long drive in Adi’s car, and before they realise it, it is late night. They park their car in an isolated area, intending to spend some quality time.
Their romantic tryst is disturbed by Mangesh Jhadhav, the contemporary Ravana played by Sharad Kelkar, and his sidekick, Kiran Mama, enacted by Kishor Kadam.
With the aim of moral policing, Mangesh and Kiran, pretending to be policemen, traumatise the young, gullible couple, to the point of breaking their spirits, which they nearly succeed.
With a taut script and narrated at a leisurely pace, the first act of the film captures the romance of the young couple with all their innocence. The turning point comes with the sudden appearance of Mangesh and Kiran. Their verbal spate, taunting and unnerving the duo, keeps you glued to the screen.
It is only after the interval, when Adi, by happenstance, finds out Mangesh and Kiran’s true identity, that the film changes course as a revenge drama and keeps you hooked till the very end.
But it is during the denouement after Adi tells Neha, “I had to prove to you what a man I am,” and then proposes to her, Neha’s wordless, ‘aw’ generating reply is what elevates feminism in this film.
Sidhant Gupta and Vedika Pinto are full of promise, and they deliver their parts earnestly. But of the two, the film is clearly Sidhant’s canvas, where, with a wide range of histrionics, he displays his chops brilliantly.
Equally impressive are Sharad Kelkar and Kishor Kadam. They enter the skin of their characters effortlessly.
Bhumika Chawla as Chhaya, wife of Mangesh Jhadhav, seems like a miscast. Her demeanour is more south Indian than a Maharashtrian.
Navni Parihar as Adi’s mother has a minor role. With limited screen time, her potential is not exploited to the fullest.
The background score and the music add flavour to the narrative, but the lyrics of the song, which has the line “Mere sath kyon kiya…” sound faulty.
Mounted with moderate production values the film boasts of fairly decent cinematography and is a treat to watch.