Web Review: Mission Frontline is an illuminating look at real heroes

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Rohit Shetty narrates a day in the Special Operations Group of the J & K Police. Photo: Instagram / Rohit Shetty

After episodes with Rana Daggubati and Sara Ali Khan last year, Discovery+ gets Rohit Shetty to feature in a 42-minute saga centering round the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Jammu & Kashmir police, which was set up in 1994. These elite police commandos comprise local men, highly trained to combat militancy. In uniform and other matters, this unit, nicknamed “Cargo” after their original headquarters (an air cargo base) is different from the Army, and is the first to be summoned in terrorist attacks or for the protection of visiting dignitaries and various events.

This force is masked, as their identities have to be protected (for the sake of their families, who also may not even get to see them for days on end). At the same time, it is exhilarating to know that these men have such sophisticated weaponry as the Glock pistol or the Corner-Shot machine-gun, which is technologically advanced enough to show a target at different angles to the gun’s position.

The script by Bhavesh Mehta is decent, but some of the lines spoken by Rohit Shetty seem more than a shade clumsy, though spoken with full sincerity. The direction too is neat, though Kunal Kochhar could have made it more dramatic in the earlier sections of training. The UAC (unarmed combat) part shows Rohit outclassing professionals too easily, which does not comply with his own repeated statements that it is not easy to be a real policeman, especially when pitted against terrorists. He, however, manages to do most of the activities with reasonable success.

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Rohit thus eases out these cinematic deficiencies smoothly, talking fluidly and clearly from the heart about the inordinate cold conditions at 5000 feet above sea-level, the days and nights minus sleep or rest, the uncertainties at work daily in terms of what could happen, of even imminent death, and the physical exertions, drills and exercises.

At frequent intervals, he describes the graphic differences between filming his movie’s action sequences (he has made four significant films on cops, is making a fifth, and has delivered India’s first cop universe with reel super-cops in Singham, Simmba and Sooryavanshi). He also expresses joy at the fact that the SOG has arms so advanced that they have not even been shown in Hollywood actioners.

Tanveer Jillani, Principal of the Commando Training Centre at Lethpora, first explains what the producer-director is going in for as he prepares to spend a day at the SOG camp. There is the warm-up, followed by training in 24 actions, from which Rohit gets to do only a few of the most important ones due to time constraints. Among them is the Ramp Jump, consisting of alternate crawl and jump, and climbing a ladder without support holding a heavy machine-gun. Why such training is needed is also explained articulately by Tanveer.

There is first-hand training in handling everything from a pistol to an AK-57 as well, and dismantling and reassembling weapons that can face glitches during action time, and Tanveer explains that a trained commando can do all that very swiftly even when blindfolded. Target practice comes next, including pop-up targets that flash for 3 seconds where a commando must get in a minimum two vital shots.

There are intermittent sections wherein Rohit talks to Tanveer and one of the commandos, and realizes the amount of motivation they have towards serving the country. Tanveer talks about a personal loss that made him join the SOG, and a soldier recollects how his friend was shot in the head in his presence during an anti-terrorist mission.

The last section is a dummy operation (for Rohit) wherein a house occupied by militants is cordoned off, then entered, with the terrorists caught and an explosive device detonated harmlessly. Off and on, graphics describe the highlights of some weapons, the explosive device and also how anti-insurgency operations are mounted and executed.

Though there is some discrepancy in the lip-synch (clearly the original language is predominantly Hindi, though what we hear is English), the series holds immense interest, which is the whole idea. Rohit conveys well the challenges in a policeman’s real life vis-à-vis the film re-creation, and we get due insights into the life and times of a real-life superhero, as the filmmaker terms an average policeman. We can also see throughout how his excitement is patently genuine.

With the lofty aim of projecting the true saviors of the nation, the film succeeds in making us think again of the sacrifices made by so many men and their families so that human lives and property are secure, and not just in J & K. This film is for all of us, in that sense, indeed a Discovery Plus.

Rating: ****

Discovery Plus presents Mission Frontline with Rohit Shetty Directed by: Kunal Kochhar Written by: Bhavesh Mehta Starring: Rohit Shetty as himself

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