Operation Romeo works in parts



Sharad Kelkar is the chilling oppressor in Operation Romeo. Photo: Raindrop Media

Two remakes in the same week of Telugu films, with the Kannada-Hindi KGF2 running to packed houses from the last week means quite a bit of South Indian overdrive!

Operation Romeo, based on the Telugu film, Ishq: Not a Love Story (2021) releases in the same week as Jersey, the Telugu original’s Hindi remake of the same name. In form, it is almost experimental, much like Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday! and his Marathi production Taryanche Bait, but the appeal is far narrower and the box-office will thus not be anywhere close. In fact, especially in these times, the film should have been best released with due publicity on OTT.

At another end, this film is the exact opposite of Jersey in two key ways: it is crisply to-the-point, and two, the direction is shoddy in many sequences. An early indication of this comes when the hero, driving his car, looks for long periods at his girlfriend instead of ahead at the road! The hero’s sole family sequence too comes across as clumsy, as also many of the early scenes of the hero and the heroine separately and together.

Aditya (Sidhant Gupta), a Mumbai IT professional, is in love with Neha (Vedika Pinto), a student living alone in a hostel. She is the daughter of parents who are presumably in Rajasthan, as she greets them on phone with “Khamma ghani”, the traditional exchange.

When her birthday comes, the couple decided to spend it together all the way to dawn. At night, they go on a long drive around Mumbai.

When they park in  a secluded place for a bit of romance (as in their first lip-kiss) they are accosted by two plainclothes cops, Mangesh (Sharad Kelkar) and Kiran (Kishor Kadam), who demand multiple thing like their family contacts and even money, alternatively threatening them to a night in the lock-up and also making their pictures, which Mangesh has shot in the backseat of their car, go viral.

Finally settling for a good sum of money, Madhav makes Aditya (with Kiran) go to an ATM and locks the car from within and tries to get fresh with Neha. As the couple leaves after the bribe is given, Aditya asks Neha what transpired in the car. She does not reply.

A tormented Aditya, to whom Madhav sends obscene WhatsApp forwards (which he has gleefully promised as they part!) soon finds out that Madhav is actually an ambulance driver and Kiran a ladies tailor. And then begins his revenge where Madhav and his harmless wife Chhaya (Bhumika Chawla) and daughter become his victims in his endeavor to teach the philandering Madhav a lesson. Soon Kiran is also punished—the details there conveniently skipped.

But it is Aditya who gets what he deserves from his girlfriend for his toxic masculinity, as she asks him the all-important question: What if Madhav had done something to her in the car? Would he have still accepted her? Never mind that Madhav, with the worst of intentions, barely had the time to do anything truly abominable!

The film is not so much about moral policing (as it turns out) but about how a girl who comes from a supposedly regressive background stands up against male chauvinism. In that sense, the film says what it wants to drive home only in the final sequence of the 135-minute runtime.

The director and writers do create a chilling atmosphere during the couple’s long encounter with their tormentors, but scant attention is played to logic later. How, for example, did Aditya find out who Kiran actually was by just spending time in the area where it all happened (And Ballard Pier in Mumbai also has no such by-lanes for a humble ladies tailor’s establishment, but let that pass!). How did he come to know that Madhav, for starters, was not a cop at all? And why does he get intimidated by him even when his uniform flaunts his actual profession? And why not just ask real cops to tackle them both?

It is the formidable duo of Marathi veterans Sharad Kelkar and Kishor Kadam that brings both flesh and fear to the script. Sharad is incredible again—a powerhouse of talent best remembered by Hindi film buffs as Emperor Shivaji in Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior as well as for the Special Ops and The Family Man franchises. But, as we all know from his unique track-record, he is much more than even these works.

And Kishor Kadam’s underplaying heightens the impact for his slimy role.

The newcomers are good, though they both look like a mix of several known faces in films and on TV! Vedika scores in an underwritten role and Sidhant Gupta is best when he confronts Madhav and Chhaya. Bhumika Chawla impresses as the harangued wife.

M.M. Kreem gets to score only one ordinary track within the film and his monumental expertise did not deserve such superficial work. The background score by Advait Nemlekar is passable. Technical values are average.

Just like the film.

Rating: **1/2

Friday Film Works & Plan C Studios present Operation Romeo  Produced by: Shital Bhatia & Neeraj Pandey Directed by: Shashant Shah  Written by: Rateesh Ravi & Arshad Syed Music: M.M. Kreem Starring: Sidhant Gupta, Vedika Pinto, Sharad Kelkar, Bhumika Chawla, Kishor Kadam, Navni Parihar & others





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