Hollywood has Black Hawk Down, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, which draw heavily from real events. Bollywood has a fecund imagination that can come up with any solution to any scenario, be it the destruction of the habitat of the scaly anteater or the threat of nuclear war. So what if India hasn’t yet been able to extradite Dawood Ibrahim, the underworld overlord and one of the principal accused in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, from his alleged hiding place in Karachi in Pakistan? Nikhil Advani’s action thriller D-Day suggests that since Indians don’t have a good record of prosecuting criminals and terrorists holed, Bollywood will have to come up with its own law enforcement strategy. The writers of D-Day (Advani shares credit with Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair) offer a tantalising wish fulfilment fantasy that unfolds as a prescription for action for the Indian government or a voter’s manifesto, depending on which way you look at it.
The “D” in D-Day, of course, stands for Dawood, even though Rishi Kapoor’s character is nicknamed Goldman. Kapoor’s hammy villain, who sports Rooh Afza-coloured glasses throughout, is about the only link to reality in Advani’s nail-the-bastard chimera. D-Day sets aside logic in favour of momentum. The 153-minute thriller is shot and edited at a rapid clip, with the kind of frenetic intercutting between different actions and locations that makes The Godfather look staid in comparison.
Goldman, who also goes by the name Iqbal Seth, isn’t just responsible for the 1993 blasts. According to this movie, he is behind every single terrorist strike in India in recent years. Nasser’s Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief puts Operation Goldman into motion when he tasks four agents with smoking out the dreaded gangster. It’s easier done than said—Wali (Irrfan Khan), Rudra (Arjun Rampal), Aslam (Akash Dahiya) and Zoya (Huma Qureshi) manage to lock their target as he prepares for his son’s wedding. But Mother Nature plays a cruel joke on them, the mission goes kaput, and the hunters become the hunted.
It’s preposterous at the best of times but nevertheless very watchable despite a stretched denouement, song interludes (a couple of tunes, especially Mika’s rendering of Duma Dum Mast Kalander, are adroitly woven into the storyline) and redundant scenes of intimacy and family bonding. D-Day is pulp that is brought to life with the kind of swagger that is only capable in a Hindi movie. Advani marries the influence of Hindi spy and gangster thrillers from the seventies and contemporary reality-inspired search-and-rescue dramas from Hollywood, creating a uniquely local cocktail that is baggily based on fact but mostly driven by fiction.
The filmmaker, whose directing credits include Kal Ho Na Ho, Salaam-e-Ishq and Chandni Chowk to China, has a mostly firm handle on the proceedings, matching the hard-bitten and gritty action with suitably grizzly characters, each of whom leaves his or her mark despite being part of a sprawling cast. The agents, especially Irrfan Khan, makes the most of their meatier parts, but other actors are also on their professional best behaviour, including Chandan Roy Sanyal as Goldman’s sadistic nephew, Nasser as the driven R&AW chief, actor Shriswara as Wali’s innocent wife, and KK Raina as Goldman’s exasperated Pakistani handler. Niranjan Iyengar’s dialogue is firmly aimed at the pleasure seekers in the front rows and the jingoistic vigilantes in the balcony seats. Tushar Kanti Ray’s mostly hand-held and heavily mobile cinematography complements Aarif’s Sheikh’s jittery editing, leaving audiences with little time to ponder on the list of lengthy improbables. Bodies routinely pile up across Karachi; arms and bombs are acquired in a jiffy; the agents manage to be just one step behind the Pakistani establishment that is shown to be protecting Goldman even though they don’t bother to disguise their appearances. One supposes that if you could believe Jason Bourne’s unstoppable journey across Europe and America in the Bourne series, D-Day has to be let off the hook too.