The 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks have never been made into a full-fledged big budget Bollywoood film. Major fills that gap. The film is the latest from the South that is breaking state and language barriers. It has been simultaneously shot in Hindi and Telugu.
The Mahesh Babu produced venture is directed by Sashi Kiran Tikka. Adivi Sesh shines as Major Unnikrishnan, the 31-year-old decorated NSG commando who saved dozens during the 26/11 attacks.
26/11 changed the course of Mumbai and India’s history. However, the attacks also shattered the lives of three people in Bengaluru — Unnikrishnan’s parents and his estranged wife, Neha.
Major focuses on the making of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, and that is both its strength and flaw — the Neha-Sandeep love story and the making of a ‘regular’ guy who falls in love with the uniform, first rejected by the Navy but later inducted into the Army, stretches a bit too long. But the post-interval pace tries to make up for the slow start. The film also connects some of the scenes from the first half, meant to explain the protagonist’s behaviour in the second half. But this could be done with a tighter pace and better editing.
Major’s action scenes are well-directed, befitting India’s elite forces. The film’s focus is on showing what makes one a soldier and a hero. And the narrative does not slip much in giving you the answer.
Prakash Raj and Revathi fit perfectly as Unnikrishnan’s parents. The scene in which they huddle in rain after the news of their son’s death is received will make your eyes well up.
The re-creation of a city under attack is powerful and immersive, especially the scenes inside Taj Mahal hotel. The portrayal is faithful to the actual events, and harrowing — the panic, the horror and sense of helplessness experienced by the guests and staff and the staccato killings.
The delay in launching the operation against the terrorists and the deaths blamed on the live telecast of the entire attack have been discussed almost endlessly. The film has an incisive take on the attacks, and Adivi Sesh captures well the frustration of being restricted by both lack of blueprints of Taj Mahal hotel and the incessant media coverage.
Sobhita Dhulipala’s short but powerful performance as a hotel guest, Pramoda Reddy, shows the immense potential the actor holds.
Army wives and valour
Saiee Manjrekar as Neha falters in the poignant moments, even as she looks incredibly believable as the teen-in-love. The love story does not quite match up to the one shown in Shershah, but asks important questions often lost in the glorification of army wives. While army wives are often glorified to the point of them being understood as superhumans, in Major, Neha is shown to be incredibly human. She is unsure of the life she chooses. She wanted to be with the love of her life, but not with an absent husband. She chooses to build her own career in a separate city, instead of leading the barracks life. She chooses herself, something that’s demonised by society and also critiqued on the big screen — Priyamani’s character in The Family Man, where the husband is unable to give her enough time.
Major nails patriotism without jingoism, almost. There is just one dialogue on PoK that could have been avoided altogether. There is no unnecessary screentime spent on trying to make the terrorists say ‘jihad or ‘allah hu akbar’ or even dwell on the ‘why’. A refreshing first in itself.