Rashtra Kavach OM review: OM my God! The nation can’t bank on this thin shield

Aditya Roy Kapur’s brawny avatar might draw some cheers from the masses, but there is very little to speak about this cliched, poor action drama.

Rating: 1 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

Barely few weeks from its release, Om: The Battle Within [2022] witnessed a change to its title. We didn’t hear about any controversy per se, but in an interview to a news channel, Aditya Roy Kapur cited creative reasons behind the title being renamed as Rashtra Kavach OM [2022]. The literal meaning translates to National shield Om. More than a film title, it sounded like some national health insurance scheme by a public sector firm. No big deal. Things can change at the eleventh hour in Bollywood.

Another surprise followed when the press show of the film was held at Mumbai’s famous Gaiety Galaxy cinemas [part of the G7 multiplex]. Before the word multiplex came into being, the popular Gaiety Galaxy had the distinction of being one of the first cinema properties to have more than one screen. Gaiety Galaxy also became a popular hub for mass entertainers. It didn’t matter whether a mass entertainer tanked in the fancy multiplexes that mushroomed later, but Bollywood stars, filmmakers built their brand on the back of such audiences.

The trailer of Rashtra Kavach OM [2022] clearly spelt out its target audience. We’re thankful to the producers for this experience. For the first time, we witnessed how the masses consume such content. The media largely occupied the balcony seats, whereas the masses cheered on from the stall. It’s only cinema halls like Gaiety that bring people of different sensibilities under one roof.

It was an eye opener for us, the sophisticated audience who abhor melodrama, over-the-top action or cheap comedies. But it works for a particular audience. The loudest cheer from the stall emanated during three scenes. The first one when the hero hugs his mother. The second when the female protagonist makes an appearance. The third when our hero steps out of the army vehicle in style. Hang on these are not even the high points in the film. During the interval, the leading cast made an appearance on the podium. The loudest cheer was reserved not for the young cast, but for veteran actor Jackie Shroff. These on and off camera scenes is a classic demonstration of mass culture.

Unfortunately, film reviewing requires one to be detached from all such fanfare, hysteria and judge a film purely on its cinematic merit. 135 minutes later, Rashtra Kavach OM is anything but impressive.

Om [Aditya Roy Kapur], a para commando takes a bullet to his head during a failed combat mission in the Pacific ocean. When he wakes up, the commando has lost his memory but has visions of his real father Dev Rathore [Jackie Shroff], a nuclear scientist who went missing years ago. He was also suspected of being a traitor. Om has to conquer his inner demons, battle amnesia and the real desh drohis [anti nationals]. Memory loss… sounds familiar right? Jason Bourne will empathize with Om.

The twists and turns play along expected lines. The trailer gave an impression that maybe Aditya Roy Kapur could play a double role here. However, there are no twins. Viewers can decipher the family drama, suspense themselves. What gets our goat though is the mind-boggling discovery by the nuclear scientist Dev Rathore. The man has devised a machine that can shield the nation against nuclear attacks. No, it’s not Israel’s famous Iron Dome defence system. Dev calls his desi creation a kavach [shield]. It’s extremely advanced, sophisticated for laymen like us to understand. Probably, real scientists would be amused by it. Let’s just say that Dev adopted the Lohe ko loha hi kaat ta hai principle to build this nuclear defence system.

The film holds promise briefly, but the screenplay goes downhill the moment Om regains consciousness after the near fatal attack. Debutant director Kapil Verma’s script reeks of poor writing, predictable banal plots, and debatable science. The disappointing show by the lead cast only adds to our misery.

Struggling for long, this transformation into an action hero seems more of a desperate move by Aditya Roy Kapur. The six pack abs, Rambo-like action might draw some cheers from the masses, but beyond the brawn, there is no substance to the character. Thankfully, the writers take care to tell us why no bullet can kill Om. Kapur curbs his usual frailties, but is hampered by the poor script. The action, too, is not that convincing.

Sanjana Sanghi looked so listless in Dil Bechara [2020]. We didn’t find any difference in her performance in Rashtra Kavach OM. Dr. Kavya [Sanghi] is Om’s colleague in the special cell that was designed to find and unravel the mystery around Dev. A romantic sequence would have been a distraction to its serious mission, and so Verma is wise to underplay the Om-Kavya relationship. Sanghi though must do some serious introspection after another underwhelming show.

Jackie Shroff, Ashutosh Rana and Prakash Raj are sincere in their efforts but they, too, can’t lift the insipid script. Irani import Elnaaz Norouzi is wasted in a sheepish item number. While she looks a million bucks, producer, choreographer Ahmed Khan surely could have given her better moves.

The film moves from north India and concludes in far off Armenia. Is that a first for Bollywood? The deserted roads in the mountain region are captured well. The only consistent thing about Rashtra Kavach OM is its fairly decent background score.

While the idea of developing a nuclear defence system is fine, the weak script, poor direction, uninspiring performance leave a gaping hole in this rashtra kavach. We’re afraid, no nation can afford to bank on this shield.

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