Yodha Review: Insufferable Scrappy Thriller

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A still from Yodha. (courtesy: primevideoin)Saddled with a wayward screenplay that fires a string of blanks, Yodha fights a losing battle. The titular hero is a de-rostered soldier from a disbanded task force who boards a commercial aeroplane to nowhere. He is on a mission to wreak vengeance and seek redemption.That is what the screenplay by co-director Sagar Ambre lets on amid the pandemonium unleashed by wobbly planes and failing hydraulics. Everything in Yodha, an insufferably scrappy thriller, is a bewildering blur. Figuring out what is going on is best left to troopers who have no fear of the unfathomable.Early in the film, the protagonist walks out of a deep river with a smoke bomb in his hand. It emits the three colours of the national flag. The guy sure knows the technique to keep a smoke-flare dry in water. He does even better in the climax with another tricolour-spewing smoke bomb that survives an explosion and a full-blown inferno.No matter how lenient you might want to be and how much of a Sidharth Malhotra fan you are, this pulpy action movie is a bumpy ride that lurches from one misstep to another.In Yodha, passenger planes are mere playthings in the hands of commandos and terrorists. They can access the cargo hold from the cabin at will, which, as anybody who knows about planes will tell you, is simply not possible.Much of the action in Yodha, directed by Ambre and Pushkar Ojha, unfolds in the passenger cabin of an aircraft and in the spaces under it. The film eventually winds up in an Islamabad building called Jinnah Hall where peace talks are underway between the premiers of India and Pakistan. No prizes for guessing, a terror plot is afoot alongside to scuttle the negotiations because war, the antagonist thunders, is a business.Passengers on the aircraft commandeered by the protagonist are at the receiving end of a yarn that hits severe turbulence and goes into an unending tailspin. They can only gawk and shriek in horror at the harebrained, ham-fisted lows that Yodha and his flying machine descends to. The film revels in blowing logic and common sense to smithereens.Yodha is meant to be a showcase for the exploits of a highly trained soldier who is wronged by the system. He is made the scapegoat for the killing of a VIP – a nuclear scientist, no less – on a hijacked flight. His unit, the elite Yodha Task Force made up of the best soldiers from the Army, Navy and Air Force, is unceremoniously axed and the men transferred without a by-your-leave to other posts.Arun Katyal (Sidharth Malhotra), son of a martyr, refuses to admit that he was at fault. He bides his time to strike back and reclaim his lost glory. When his time does come, he ends up on a Delhi to London flight in a mysterious manner that leaves everybody on board guessing. If the idea is to flummox those watching the spectacle, Yodha is a success. There is nary a scene in the film that makes sense.In a brief prelude, the body of a fallen soldier, Surender Katyal (Ronit Roy in a cameo), is brought home in a wooden casket. Cut to the Indo-Bangladeshi border, where Arun Katyal goes after a band of evil men (they could be smugglers or infiltrators or terrorists, there is no way of knowing) and summarily eliminates them.This early sequence is obviously meant to establish how Arun Katyal operates – he does not believe in negotiations or in issuing warnings before pulling the trigger. Yes, he takes no prisoners nor does he wait for orders. The streak of impatience lands him in trouble.The sloppy screenplay fails to create any sort of convincing context for the methods that the hero employs, let alone tell the audience why the young man is forever spoiling for a skirmish where a little coaxing could be enough.Everything is purely personal for the patriot. He is a soldier because his father laid down his life for the nation. The senior bureaucrat who deposes against him after a botched mission is Priyamvada Katyal (Raashii Khanna), his wife. He is punished for breaking the chain of command. Worse, Priyamvada, putting nation before self, files for divorce.A family friend and Arun’s colleague (Tanuj Virwani) – he is simply Khan, the token good Muslim that no such patriotism-peddling thriller can do without – tries in vain to talk the couple out of their decision.Arun Katyal’s life and career are in a shambles because he – again this is what one can only surmise on the basis of driblets of information that the script throws at us – has a score to settle with a terrorist who pushed him off a plane a few years ago into a black hole that continues to haunt him.In a hijack situation, the head purser of the plane (Disha Patani) struts around like a catwalk model until she is ready to reveal her true colours and jump into the thick of the action. The first officer in the cockpit, too, has plans that catch the hero by surprise. There are several all-out fights in the aisle, the toilet and the cargo hold even as the plane loses height and strays off course.And on board is an intern – she claims she has 200 hours of flying experience – who is forced to take control of the aircraft when the crisis escalates. Do not try to put two and two together because nothing that Yodha stacks up actually adds up.It is too much to expect Sidharth Malhotra to pull this mess out of the dumps. He leaps around, runs, throws punches, fires in all directions and holds his ground as bedlam erupts around him – most of it of his own making – but the actor cannot rise above the muddle that Yodha is.As for the other actors in the cast, they go through the motions. Their faces give nothing away. Is this the stoicism of the brave? No, it is a sign that they, like the audience, are clueless.Cast:Sidharth Malhotra, Raashii Khanna and Disha PataniDirector:Sagar Ambre and Pushkar Ojha

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