Subhash K Jha speaks about Mission Istaanbul

By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network

Ouch! It cuts like a knife. The editor's scissors snips and snaps through the masterly material on international terrorism demonstrating a tailor's tight command over size and measurement. In fact, editor Rajesh Singh's work is so exemplary in the first-half, you sort of brace yourself for a grander pow-wow in the second-half.

Alas, the pace grace race and sheer velocity of the first-half slackens. Post-intermission the plot becomes one more two-heroes-fighting-the-baddies kind of good-evil fracas, which we've been watching from the time when villains were smugglers, then gangsters. Now tycoons in Saville Row suits. If God can wear Gucci, the devil won't be left behind. Terrorism goes international with a screenplay that's blessedly free of the amateurism that we have come to associate with cinema of terrorism in our country (ref: Ram Gopal Varma's recent odes to gangsterism).

Lakhia and his co-writer Suresh Nair get the politics of terrorism dead-on. And weren't talking about just the head count. The virility of the Turkish outdoors lends a canny credence to the volatile goings-on. Ironically the hub of terrorist activities in Mission is a news channel whose head (Nikitin Dheer, a little too young to play a wizened tycoon) hobnobs with a bearded sunshaded terrorist (Shabbir Ahluwalia, looking larger-than-'laugh'). As a bespectacled journalist (Zayed Khan) and a wry ambassador of crude-will (Vivek Oberoi) take on the maddened media baron and the timorous terrorist, what emerges is a part-fascinating tale of terrorism during times of stressful satire.

There are flashes of cute humor in the story, miraculously woven into the stern fabric of terrorism. The dialogues between 'George Bush' (a dead-ringer of an impersonator) and his aide are furiously funny. But some portions of the athletic run (someone or the other is constantly on the run, or getting run over) go over the top. When Shreya Saran playing Zayed's journalist wife is shown interviewing Omar Abdullah (talk about the enterprising spirit!) her cell phone keeps ringing, until the Omar (the stiffest politician turned actor I've seen since Amar Singh in another forgotten flick) politely asks her to take it. We can't. Take it, that is. Not such silly liberties in a film that seems to have researched international terrorism with some attention before plunging into the project. Lakhia knows how to handle vast crowds caught in terrifying insurgent violence. The canvas though crammed with exploding guns and ricocheting power games never loses its vision, momentum and humor…the last quality getting at times completely out of hand, pun intended.

In a bizarre sequence of comic violence, Vivek Oberoi wrenches off a victim's hands and uses them for handprint entry into a forbidden area of the terrorist headquarters, which believe it or not, is a TV channel. Journalists are constantly up in arms in this films about severed arms and explosive ammunitions. Zayed Khan as a newsreader in Aaj Tak clearly gets to cross all boundaries of duties. He tackles a half-naked terrorist on far-from-neutral ground and alongside makes room to shake a leg on the dance floor. There're two crucial sequences between the hero and the arch-villain where beefcake supplements the tension-filled dialogues and action.

Boys will be boys, huh. The attempt to bring in conventional song-and-dance thingummys into a rigorous film on Islamic terrorism is not quite misplaced. Lakhia pulls off the blasting coup with energy and élan. Full credit goes to the film's super action sequences orchestrated by Javed & Aejaz. Seldom have we seen a terrain so rugged dangerous and ruthless being turned into a hotbed of hectic jinks.

Amar Mohile's over-emphatic background score slams in the mood of danger and intrigue. The canvas encompassing an aerial and ground level expanse of action intrigue and terrorism, sweeps you into its point of view without resorting to overt distortions on the history of news headlines. Mission Istaanbul works big-time as an action thriller. The director creates a mood that swings dangerously between a Hardy Boys adventure and a Barkha Dutta-goes-to-the-war zone kind of news story. That Lakhia pulls it off with a near-effortless outflow of harnessed energy, is a miracle of sorts, orchestrated by a team that knows the difference between a scream and a dream.

Nothing dreamy about this mission. The subplot about the estranged journalist-couple with a romantic song thrown in is as convincing as a devotional song in a beer bar. There's a time and 'pace' for everything. Mission Istaanbul gets it right most of the time. The boys are all fully clued into the mood. No beating around the Bush, George or otherwise for the actors. Zayed Khan shows remarkable restrain in the most outrageous of situations, like the one where Vivek and he share colas and kisses with a desi Lara Croft who may or may not be from the enemy camp. Zayed gets the twitch and the smirk just right.

Vivek Oberoi with his flowing hair and full-on body language proves himself a pro at the pyrotechnics. He has a blast, even when the explosives are quiet once in a while. Not for the squeamish and certainly not for lovelorn dreamers Mission Istaanbul is a rollercoaster of action, terrorism and revenge that seldom pauses for breath. Marna hai kya?

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