Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjana Sanghi, Jackie Shroff, Ashutosh Rana, Prakash Raj and Prachee Shah Paandya
Director: Ahmed Khan
Stars: One Star (out of 5)
Aditya Roy Kapur dons the garb of an action hero and flashes his biceps and pectorals in the service of a bloated espionage drama that collapses under its own weight. Rashtra Kavach Om, directed by Kapil Verma, is marred by a disjointed narrative that moves only in fits and starts and not always forward.
The Zee Studios and Ahmed Khan-produced film neither has, nor does it possess the wherewithal to provide, a kavach (shield) against the barrage of incongruities that it fires at the audience - and itself. It is a spectacle that wallows in a mess that only gets worse with every scene.
Rashtra Kavach Om is a full-on assault on the senses that never gets within nodding distance of anything that might be construed as logical. The plot hinges on a prized technical breakthrough that can give a nation foolproof protection against a nuclear strike.
The lead actor plays a young man who has suffered trauma twice over - once as a boy who witnesses a fire that engulfs his home and then as a secret agent who is shot in the head in the opening moments of the film when he raids a battleship on the high seas.
The double blow leaves the guy with severe amnesia. But not to worry, he can recall his past piecemeal, which is an excuse for the selective and whimsical recollections that he requires in order to take on the traitors who are out to sell the anti-nuclear defence system to the highest bidder.
The soldier-cum-spy who has a bullet lodged in his head is Om Rathore and he is from a family of patriots who has served the nation well. However, his exploits are generally brainless. His actions have nothing to do with the tricks that his mind plays - it is the screenplay (Raj Saluja, Niket Pandey) that is to blame.
Since there is no defence system that can reverse the ill effects of bad writing, Rashtra Kavach Om is never in with a chance of putting two sensible ideas together. Of course, the film has absolutely no dearth of ridiculous plot twists that take one's breath away with their resolute banality.
A kidnapped father (Jackie Shroff) evokes contradictory emotions in those looking for him. The head of the secret agency (Prakash Raj) that on his trail believes he is a traitor. A senior intelligence agent (Ashutosh Rana) defends the missing man stoutly.
The latter is a foster dad who makes a big deal about a closely-guarded secret. A young woman (Sanjana Sanghi) is charged with 'protecting' the psychologically fragile hero from further harm. A mother (Prachee Shah Pandya) pines for her two sons (one is dead, the other does not remember her).
The spy agency is entrusted with the task of stopping the unauthorized transfer of "the biggest defence system ever created" by a scientist who goes off the grid. It would be a complete waste of time if one were to try and put two and two together and ascertain it actually makes four. Rashtra Kavach Om is the sort of movie where nothing adds up. The more it seeks to deliver the more it loses the plot.
A safehouse is organized in salubrious Kasauli for the wounded male protagonist. The guy has other ideas because the house brings back memories that make him and the girl question who he really is. That is exactly the question that the audience wants to ask. But the answers are not exactly waiting to be plucked off the air.
Rashtra Kavach Om seems to be obsessed with borders. Not such a major surprise, given that the film has rashtra in its title. One passage plays out in a military camp on what is supposed to be Myanmar's border with China. The climax, a prolonged and exhausting affair, is staged in a prison on the Iran-Armenia border.
One border that the film refrains from referring to is the one on India's northwest. Not does it mention a flogging-horse enemy nation. For a movie about secret agents and their battle to keep the country safe, that is definitely noteworthy. It has no incendiary speeches by terrorists, no bellicose posturings by battle-ready soldiers and no attempts to place the deshbhakt-deshdrohi debate in the usual geopolitical context.
The film does, however, kowtow to current political predilections by suggesting that the first nuclear test that India conducted was in 1998. One character asks whether the implementation a daring military plan that another character formulates is even possible. The latter retorts that Pokhran, too, wasn't possible until 1998, quite ignoring the 1974 Pokhran tests. This is, however, a minor blemish in a film that is over two hours of unalloyed bilge.
This tiresome, exasperating actioner sputters through a series of random situations that reduce even proven actors like Prakash Raj and Ashutosh Rana to a state in which they alternate between inertia and hysteria. As for Aditya Roy Kapur, none of the physicality that he brings to the fleshing out of an invincible one-man demolition squad can offset the ineptitude that drives the film off the rails.
He plays angry. We get it. He plays confused. We get that too. What beats us is why an actor would bank on something this bad as a vehicle for a reinvention. Sanjana Sanghi, too, has enough to do but all of it is unsalvageable pulp.
Rashtra Kavach is like a bomb that has exploded on its maker, leaving behind a scattered heap of shapeless splinters and bloodied limbs. In short, it is an unmitigated mess.