Ranneeti: Balakot & Beyond has both good points and flaws

A scene from Ranneeti: Balakot & Beyond. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

This is yet another revisit to the abhorrent Pulwama Attack by Pakistan and our retaliation later, which as in the case of URI, was denied by the country to save face.

However, this story (which is a shade prolonged at over seven hours of total runtime) is about post-Balakot (where India destroyed Pakistani terrorist camps after Pulwama) when Pakistan attempted to save face as well as extract revenge by making India’s image negative in the global arena.

And so, the war also shifts to the digital and electronic arena as the social media and TV are manipulated on both sides, with India doing it for the victory of truth and the cunning neighboring country for their own nefarious agenda.

Amidst all this is a breach of Pakistan’s agreement with America not to use SX-16 aircraft supplied by them against India. A valiant Indian Air-Force pilot shoots down one of their SX-16s that are sent to attack IAF planes but is captured and also tortured by the Pak personnel, but pressure is mounted on Pakistan by China, their partner in many activities, to release him out of that country’s own interests.

Finally, after much intelligence activity and digital tactics, India defeats Pakistan at the crucial multi-national Financial Action Task Force meeting and sanctions are imposed against our enemy.

The series is replete with chest-thumping and what India’s elite media call ‘jingoism’, but as I always maintain, any such fare must have that element to rouse us from self-imposed apathetic slumber about what our braves, including the media, keep doing to keep us safe. As a softener of sorts, the Pakistani PM is shown to take action against the amoral ISI chief, Raqib Askani (a scene-stealing turn by Ashutosh Rana, returning to the negative role) as he is also shown conspiring to unseat Pakistan’s duly-elected government.

It is very difficult here to separate fact from fiction, and all I will add here is that this is probably the most upfront anti-Pakistan fare I have seen since Sarfarosh 25 years ago. The country is continuously shown as a nation just having pathological hatred for India and Indians and exhibiting a terrible inferiority complex. Happily, it shows another obvious fact—that their official government is fostering terrorism in India even though it is often subjected to terrorist attacks itself.

The series also gets into back stories of its agents. And that’s where it becomes ‘filmi’ or a shade melodramatic. Kashyap (Jimmy Shergill—), the protagonist, is suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which also manifests as a total loss of the sense of smell. This is after a misadventure in Serbia some years ago when Raqib was again involved. So now, a personal angle comes in along the national—a fairly frequent trope in patriotic or even crime fare. The media mastermind, Manisha (Lara Dutta) is involved in some scam, which is mentioned at a crucial point but soon forgotten.

There are other elements that are a shade exaggerated—an agent’s sacrifice that becomes an emotional moment, a dying agent talking about his promise to his mother, and more, besides some other aspects that in terms of logic seem too far-fetched, and dilute the intensity of a story that looks out basically for freshness rather than what is normally shown. Also, as said before, it is difficult to fathom what was real, and what is scripted.

But I must credit Santosh Singh, the director, with a meticulousness for details and also a firm hand on the viewer’s interest levels, which never flag, helped by the performers, the cinematography (Tanveer Mir), the action (Ravi Varma), the aerial choreography (Stephen Moth) and even the music score (Joel Crasto). Despite the few and avoidable flaws, the series works on the whole, and after the loose ends are wrapped up post-climax, we thankfully realize that there will not be a forced second season!

The script, done by a bevy of writers, is commendable, though, again, some kitschy lines could have been clipped off and some elements shortened.

On the acting side, the honors go totally to Ashutosh Rana, though Ashish Vidyarthi makes for a neat defense head, Dutta. Lara Dutta is generally okay but her expressions are a shade over-the-top! Uday Tikekar as the Pakistani PM is good, while Jimmy Shergill brings out his confused side well in his complex characterization.

Iranian actor Elnaaz Norouzi shows that there is much more to her than glamor and is excellent as Fahima, while Satyajeet Dubey as Iqbal is effective in his character’s variable shades.

On the whole, unless you are one of those self-styled opponents of jingoism, Ranneeti is a neat watch that could have benefitted, not with less jingoism, but with less emotional melodrama and cliched tropes in its presentation.

And yes, before I forget, Jio Cinema needs to get its act right and fair. Despite charging additional fees even to Jio subscribers for ‘Premium Content’, the series’ audio was very muffled and unclear, especially so in earlier episodes. Do they expect us to watch shows only by reading the subtitles??!!

Jio Cinema presents Sphere Origins Multivision’s Ranneeti: Balakot & Beyond Produced by: Sunnjana Waadhwa, Comall Sunjoy Waddhwa & Sunjoy Waddhwa  Directed by: Santosh Singh  Written by: Maitrey Bajpai, Ramiz Ilham Khan, Aniruddha Guha, Sudeep Nigam, Sanjay Chopra, Vasim Kapadia & Prateek Singh Music: Joel Crasto  Starring: Jimmy Shergill, Lara Dutta, Prasanna Venkatesan, Ashutosh Rana, Sunil Singh, Ashish Vidyarthi, Akanksha Singh, Satyajeet Dubey, Elnaaz Norouzi, Uday Tikekar, Jason Tham, Umar Sharif, Roshni Sahota, Spruha Joshi & others




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