Any sequel or a remake cannot escape comparisons with the original version. Avrodh is again a long form version of the 2019 super hit Hindi film – Uri – The Surgical Strike and hence comparisons with the film cannot be avoided. Based on one chapter of the book titled India’s Most Fearless authored by journalists Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh, the web series recounts in detail the events that led to the 2016 Surgical strikes by India on POK starting with the killing of Burhan Wani and ending with the across the border commando operation. Of course, the writers do stretch their imagination and also account for the death of the JEM Commander In Chief Abu Hafiz, whom we should understand stands in for Hafiz Saeed.
Though we all are quite familiar with the end outcome, the series spread over 9 short episodes is quite gripping. Shot extensively in real locations (my guess) in Jammu and Kashmir, the camera brings before our eyes what we normally read in newspapers and watch in very short clips, quite graphically. We get a very good idea of how the security forces carry out operations in a difficult and hostile terrain in Kashmir.
The setting vacillates between the real action in Kashmir and the political action in the corridors of Delhi. Between the two, I felt the former is better written, shot and made. The scenes in Delhi are full of the now familiar tropes in this kind of subject namely bureaucratic apathy, media leaks, over reach of the United States and stuff like that. May be for deliberate reasons or due to lack of authentic source material, the scenes happening in Delhi leading up to the momentous decision to undertake the surgical strikes are a bit sketchy and lack depth.
Raj Acharya for whom this seems to be the 1st big ticket work as a director has done a meticulous job in reproducing what is written on the script. The attention to detail, the casting and the staging of the scenes demonstrate a fine understanding of the craft. Being a web series and so bestowed with the luxury of time, the director paces the series leisurely. In that sense, for an action film, the pace is a bit slow. The camera work is top class particularly in the Kashmir portions and during the action sequences. The dark lighting in some of the scenes made it for difficult viewing in some of the scenes, though. The background score is breezy and keeps us on the edge where required.
Writing is handled by Harmanjeet Singha, Sudeep Nigam, Abhishek Chaterjee and Aadhar Khurana who avoid playing up of Nationalism card too much and stick to a matter of fact narrative which I think was good. There are also no personal tragedies woven into the narrative to play up the emotions of the special ops team members. I felt a bit disappointed that there was hardly any attention or focus on the other team members of the special ops team who we were told were picked up for their specific skills and strengths. Overall, but for the character of the fiercely independent lady journalist (Madhurima Tuli) and her role which I felt was a bit contrived, overall the writing is on the dot.
The cast is impressive starting with a hugely bulked up Amit Sadh who plays the role of the special task force chief for the strike operation. He gets a mass entry which we usually get to see in Tamil films for heroes like Rajinikanth, Vijay… He oozes energy and plays the part sans any emotional over kill. Neeraj Kabi after Paataal Lok is on a roll looks like. He is cast as the suave NSA overseeing the operation. I remember seeing him in small roles in films like Hichki but he is really coming of his own these days in OTT platform. But he gets a bit over the top once in a while in pushing through his ideas.
The part of Abu Hafeez is played by Anil George who I think will be conferred with a Pakistani passport soonJ He has been cast as a Pakistani adversary in a quite a few films/series of late and he is quite at ease. There are other talented actors like Arif Zakaria, Ananth Mahadevan, Vikram Gokhale (as Narendra Modi), Darshan Kumar and Madhurima Tuli who do justice to their respective roles.
In comparison to Uri – The Surgical Strikes which was also a well-made film, Avrodh is less jingoistic and more grounded and realistic. There are no “How’s the josh” dialogues or repeated “Naya India” references in this except, for subtle dialogues about how India will handle the response differently this time over. The final episode is shot completely in Zero Dark Thirty mode and makes for engaged viewing. But the whole episode has “creative liberty’ written all over it.
The series spread over nine but thankfully short episodes, is streaming on Sony liv. Though it is a repetitive subject, it’s worth catching up.