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This John Abraham film hands out a ‘RAW’ deal to the audience

Robbie Grewal’s Romeo Akbar Walter wants to be an intelligent film about 1971 but falters at each step.

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Most Indian spy dramas show the male action hero as invincible, be it Akshay Kumar-starrer Baby or Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger. And, Robbie Grewal’s Romeo Akbar Walter, which stars John Abraham and Mouni Roy, is the latest addition to that list.

The film follows the same trope, except that it has a ‘Hindustani Muslim’ proving his patriotism in 1971.

The movie begins at the RAW headquarters where its tired director Srikant Rai, played by Jackie Shroff who for some reason is mostly seen wearing a hat in the film, is looking for fresh talent to recruit for a mission in Pakistan.

Rai comes across Romeo Ali (John Abraham), a bank cashier by the day and a theatre artist at night. Romeo’s ability to change his appearance gets him the job at RAW.

At an intelligence briefing, we are told that Pakistan is facing a crisis with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) wanting to break away from the country. And, India is secretly supplying weapons to the fighters. Across the border, Pakistan has got a whiff of this and is planning a big attack.

John Abraham’s Romeo Ali has to find out what this big attack is all about.

Romeo reaches Pakistan and takes on a new identity – Akbar Malik. Akbar has a fighting-fit figure, speaks less and hardly reacts. There’s little in his act that convinces or excites you, and it’s a far cry from John Abraham’s performance in Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe (2013).

A confused script doesn’t help either. It’s a film that wants to be intelligent but comes out rather raw.

Also read: RAW@50: Remembering RN Kao, India’s first true spymaster

Sikander Kher, son of Anupam and Kirron Kher, as Colonel Khudabaksh Khan of the ISI delivers a strong performance.

Mouni Roy, who was last seen in Gold alongside Akshay Kumar, is an Indian diplomat posted in Pakistan in Romeo Akbar Walter. Much like all the other characters in the movie, her role too lacks depth.

A good thriller needs to have an edge-of-the-seat plot. Romeo Akbar Walter has very little of that. Few scenes do stand out, like the one where Akbar is placing a bug in a phone even as there’s a real threat of his cover being blown up.

But one must tip their hit to the production design team of Romeo Akbar Walter for perfectly capturing the 1970s India and Pakistan on screen. The colour palette in every scene is well thought-out and makes the film look every bit a period drama. Scenes like a secret meeting at a roadside chai shop in Karachi or Akbar flipping through confidential files are infused with life through the brilliant play of light and colour.

The gloom is captured well too, a lesson Grewal may have learnt during the filming of Shoojit Sircar’s war drama Yahaan (2005) for which he was a producer.

Romeo Akbar Walter comes after the success of Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi (2018). Both are based on events in and around 1971 war, but the difference lies in the treatment. Raazi humanised the conflict and managed to strike a chord with the viewers. And this
is exactly where Romeo Akbar Walter or RAW falters.

In the end, Romeo Akbar Walter hands out a raw deal to the viewers.

Also read: After 50 years of RAW, there are still no declassified documents or an official history


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