In a red car standing on an isolated road in the dead of the night, a man tears open the wrapper of a chocolate bar and intimidatingly offers it to a girl sitting next to him. Petrified and drenched in sweat, she takes a bite of it. The man then goes on to relish the rest of the chocolate, almost in ecstasy while the girl's boyfriend who is sitting in the front seat of the car, watches this scene in horror.
The thought of going through something like this in real life gives you both, the chills as well as the creeps! And that's how Neeraj Pandey's latest production Operation Romeo effectively catches your pulse and builds tension in the air.
A Hindi adaptation of Shane Nigam-Ann Sheetal's 2019 Malayalam film Ishq- Not A Love Story, Operation Romeo stays true to its written source. This comes with its own set of pros and cons.
What's Yay: Sharad Kelkar and Kishor Kadam's performances
What's Nay: Weak Screenplay
Operation Romeo begins with romance in the air for Aditya (Sidhant Gupta), an IT professional and Neha (Vedika Pinto), an engineering student. The duo engage in a late night conversation, making grand plans for Neha's birthday which falls on the next day. A series of scenes later, Aditya and Neha set out on a day-long trip to enjoy the latter's birthday.
From treating Neha with her favorite food at the restaurant of her choice to enjoying boat rides together at Gateway Of India, the lovebirds enjoy the day to the fullest. Later, Aditya takes Neha for a long drive where they park their car in a desolate parking lot near a hospital to share a brief moment of intimacy.
Unfortunately, their tender moment is interrupted by a rowdy cop Mangesh (Sharad Kelkar) and his drunk old ally Kiran (Kishor Kadam) who are moral goons on prowl. Aditya-Neha's innocent date soon turns into a night of blackmail, trauma and torment for them.
After the nightmarish experience, Aditya takes it upon himself to seek revenge. 'Face, trace and erase' becomes his motto. Will this 'Romeo' succeed in his mission?
Operation Romeo helmed by Shashank Shah, is almost a frame-to-frame copy of Ishq- Not A Love Story. So, this flick has nothing new to offer to those who have already watched the Shane Nigam-Ann Sheetal starrer. Apart from changing the location of the film to snipping a few scenes from the original, Shah barely uses any creativity in his storytelling.
Speaking about the plus points, Operation Romeo aptly depicts the trappings of a normal guy in a patriarchal society through the male protagonist Aditya. He may come across as a cutesy guy but deep down, there's possessiveness, anger and the amorous love for a girl's chastity.
Rather than consoling his girlfriend post their traumatic experience, he is more interested in knowing what transpired inside the car when she was left alone with a stranger. "I need to know gaadi mein kya hua thha. Please tell me, I need to know as a man, okay?," he almost bursts out at a point.
Revolving around the theme of moral policing, Operation Romeo also gives us an understanding of how moral goons and sexual offenders often prey on the helplessness and fear of their victims. And hence, the power play is more psychological than physical.
Coming to the flip side, one wishes that Shashank along with writer Arshad Sayed had not carried forward the shortcomings from Ishq-Not A Love Story into his version as well. Like the original, here too, we never get any insight into Neha's psyche post the tragic incident, which is why when the final twist arrives in the climax, it barely makes a loud impact and comes across as forced. The revenge saga in the second half of the film is also debatable when it comes to dealing with moral policing instances.
Sidhant Gupta and Vedika Pinto look adorable as a pair on screen, but they lack the innocence and charm which Shane Nigam and Ann Sheetal exuded in the Malayalam film. Sidhant as a flawed hero, pulls off a good performance. On the other hand, Vedika barely gets to showcase her acting chops owing to the limited scope in the script.
The film majorly rests on Sharad Kelkar and Kishor Kadam's hefty shoulders. The duo together, send shivers down your spine as they play a cat and mouse game with their prey. One of the main reasons why your eyes remain glued to the screen is because of them. It's good to watch Bhumika Chawla on celluloid after a long time. Barring the portions where she has to deliver her dialogues in Marathi, the actress is convincing in her part.
Cinematographer Hari Nair, with his tight close-up shots, stirs up a perfect concoction of fear and tension on screen. Kathikuloth Praveen's editing goes fine with the narrative.
There's nothing memorable when it comes to the music department in this film. The songs with their forgettable lyrics simply play out in the scenes. Thankfully, they ain't any hindrance to the storytelling.
"I love games," Sharad Kelkar's character Mangesh Jadhav declares with a grin in one of the scenes in the film. While Operation Romeo has most of its players in full form when it comes to the theme of the film, it simply misses to score a goal due to lack of novelty in terms of execution.
In a nutshell, this one is worth watching only for Sharad Kelkar and Kishor Kadam's deft performances. The rest can settle for the Malayalam version which is streaming on an OTT platform.
We give 2.5 stars out of 5 for Sidhant Gupta-Vedika Pinto starrer Operation Romeo.