Attack: Part 1, Heropanti 2, Dhaakad, Bachchhan Paandey—can you guess what is common between all these action films? Well, all of these 2022 Bollywood releases struggled to fill seats in theatres across the country. They served a platter of lazily stitched action sequences while throwing the script out of the window. Kapil Verma’s Rashtra Kavach Om is no different.
In the first half of Rashtra Kavach Om, Ashutosh Rana tells Aditya Roy Kapur’s character, Om, that he was “born to protect the nation.” As I struggled to gather my leftover brain cells after a 155-minute runtime, I wondered what thought went into this film’s conception.
One man against the world
The film revolves around Om Rathod, a Para (Special Forces) commando. Before he makes it to the screen, we are told that there is no one like him, that he can do the unthinkable and accomplish tasks no one can even fathom. From thereon, writers Raj Saluja and Niket Pandey coax in songs of his praises wherever they can in the script.
After Om survives a bullet to his forehead, he forgets the part of his life that leads up to him joining the Indian Army. He only remembers his former years, wherein he got separated from his father, Dev Rathod (Jackie Shroff) after a dramatic fire sequence. His father, who was a scientist, has been deemed an ‘anti-nationalist and traitor’, and now it’s onto extraordinary Om to prove his innocence. As he struggles to come to terms with his reality, his ‘special’ team at a government agency tasks him to uncover the kavach, a highly specialised technology meant to safeguard the country. At one juncture, a character demonstrates all that the kavach can do, and honestly, it poorly mimics the enchanted shield over Hogwarts in the last installment of the Harry Potter series.
It is Om’s world and we are all just living in it, against our will. Two weeks before the film’s release, the makers changed its name from Om: The Battle Within to Rashtra Kavach Om. Perhaps, naming it ‘The Amazing Om and his adventures’ would have made more sense.
A predictable, half-baked story
Rashtra Kavach Om is Kapur’s first film after his last theatrical release in 2020, Malang. He featured in two more films that year, Sadak 2 and Ludo, both of which released on OTT platforms. While he has clearly invested a lot in the physical preparation for his role—which by no means is a simple task—Kapur fell prey to the limitations of the script. However, it would be safe to say that he has successfully entered the action heroes’ league in Bollywood, dominated by the likes of Tiger Shroff, Vidyut Jammwal, and John Abraham. But how far can (just) action take the narrative?
For the most part, Rashtra Kavach Om is predictable. You can even predict the dialogues and mannerisms of some of its characters. But after a pivotal character’s murder, the film picks pace and introduces some head-scratching twists. And it is so bad that it is good.
The cast, comprising of credible actors like Prakash Raj and Ashutosh Rana, does not enhance the story’s interests either. They are just pawns in the larger undercooked universe of director Kapil Verma. At one point, Raj breaks into a monologue, much like his character in Rohit Shetty’s Singham (2011).
During the power-packed action climax, Om wreaks havoc. He shoots people left, right, and centre. He wrestles with them. At one point, he also picks up one of the bad guys like a dumbbell in the air. In another sequence, he runs as two men cling to his waist, only to—drumroll—tear off his shirt in the process. I am not complaining about Kapur’s perfect physique, (why would anyone?) but haven’t we seen this sequence a thousand times? Oh, and if that is not it, each time Om shoots or stabs someone, the computer-generated imagery is so poor that one can see blood appear and disappear like in video games. At another point, the film randomly drops in an item song after a rescue mission—I mean, why? Is this still 2022? Come on, Bollywood! Innovate!
I understand that Rashtra Kavach Om was meant to be a masala entertainer peppered with slow-motion cutting-edge action sequences and dialogue-baazi. Perhaps, critiquing it from the lens of content-driven films is not the best choice. But what do you do when you are not even offered what was promised?
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)