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Hansal Mehta's Omerta starring Rajkummar Rao isn't for the faint-hearted! The director-actor duo who borrowed several stories from the real to give us films like Shahid and Aligarh get you up and close with the British terrorist of Pakistani descent Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh on the celluloid. He was the man who was responsible for the 1994 kidnappings of Westerners in India and the brutal killing of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Hansal's gripping study of evil is limited to the dramatization of the real-life notorious terrorist; some of which is easily found on Wikipedia.
Omerta begins with Rajkummar's Omar winning arm-wrestling matches at local London pubs before his sinister side is revealed when he smooth-talks three British backpackers and a American woman and holds them as hostages in New Delhi demanding the release of ten militants imprisoned in the fight for Kashmir's independence. The mission goes bust and Omar is held captive in Tihar jail where he is subjected to torture. But all the beating turns him even more icy cold.
Soon, he is is released in exchange for the passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. Omar considers this as his victory and moves on to unleash more terror. Meanwhile, the earlier flashbacks reveal how Omar, a well-educated lad who felt strongly for the Bosnian attacks in 1992 fell into the clutches of Islamic radicals who allured him towards the path of 'jihaad'.
As years pass by, Omar rises up in the ranks with his brains,becomes a leader in Karachi and even gets married off to a trophy wife by the government for the services rendered. Next comes the most notorious event where Omar abducts and brutually murders American journalist Daniel Pearl post which he is sentenced to death and imprisoned in Karachi jail.
Omerta lacks a moment of introspection and the writing is majorly to be blamed. You never get to know what goes inside Omar's head whe he turns to 'jihaad' for solutions to problems or get a peek into the facet of his personal life. You know he's dangerous but what makes him crave for blood in the name of justice and religion? What made him become a ruthless maniac who beheaded Pearl?
The film stumbles when it comes to answering these questions. Even Omar's conversations with his father is unidimensional. Hansal merely presents facts and makes ample use of new footage which gives the film a very docu-drama feeling.
Speaking about the film, Omerta is Rajkummar Rao's show all the way. As a cold-blooded sociopath, he delves deep into the darkness to send shivers down your spine. His commendable presence in each and every scene keeps you glued to the screen from the word 'go'. Yet another bravura performance from the talented actor! Be it the scene where he befriends the foreign tourists and hoodwinks them or when he butchers Daniel barbarically and then wipes the blood off his glasses, Rao makes your skin crawl with his chilling amorality.
Timothy Ryan Hickernell as the slain journalist Daniel Pearl plays his part well.
Ishaan Chhabra's score complements well with the film. The non-linear editing by Anuj Rakesh Dhawan might put off certain section of the audience.
In a nutshell, Omerta is a brave attempt which doesn't sugarcoat the bitter pill. However, its effectiveness is lessened by the tedious tone of the narrative. The plain vanilla treatment to the subject might not appeal to some. Having said that, the film is worth a dekko purely for Rajkummar Rao's mind-blowing transformation into a sinister figure.
Almost towards the end, you have him parting with a chilling smile on his face when he's finally caught by the Pakistani authorities. That haunting look is what lingers for long! I am going with three stars here.