Ranneeti: Balakot And Beyond Review: India Shines Again

Ranneeti: Balakot And Beyond veers between intriguing and boring, observes Deepa Gahlot.

Had Ranneeti: Balakot And Beyond been a film running in a theatre, some of the Pak-bashing dialogue would have elicited cheers.

‘When Sachin Tendulkar used to hit sixers, your prime minister used to fetch the ball from the boundary,’ says an Indian to a Pakistani arguing about ‘auqaat‘.

Of course, Santosh Singh’s Ranneeti: Balakot And Beyond is jingoistic, and the aim is to make India shine. But interestingly, the focus is on the ‘Beyond’ part of the narrative.

At various points in the nine-part show, the point is made that today, wars are not fought on battlefields but on the Internet, where the truth is easily manipulated. It is a battle of perception, of controlling social media and the international media.

The series is a tribute to the armed forces, and deservedly so.

The aftermath of the suicide attack on a bus full of Indian soldiers that killed several was the stealthy bombing of a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp in Balakot. In spite of the fact that Pakistan shifted its camp from Bahawalpur to Balakot, the diligent work of an undercover asset, Iqbal (Satyajeet Dubey), led to a successful mission.

On the Indian side, are Kashyap Sinha (Jimmy Shergill), a strategist who suffers from PTSD after a failed mission in Serbia, that has left him without taste buds, and a twitchy, intense demeanour; Madhusudan Dutta (Ashish Vidyarthi), head of the National Security Bureau, Manisha Bharadwaj (Lara Dutta), a social media spin doctor and several earnest people slogging away on computers.

The Pakistani team has a hawkish Raqib Askani (Ashutosh Rana), his media expert Shireen (Samvedna Suwalka), Jaish’s Yakub (Umar Sharif) and his crew of terrorists.

India has managed to get two undercover agents into Yakub’s inner circle, who risk their lives to get intel to India. The Americans and Chinese drop by to add authenticity to the goings-on.

Pakistan famously claimed the Balakot attack never happened and that only a few trees and crows were killed by the Indian Air Force.

Once the episodes of the Pulwama attack and the retaliation at Balakot are done, the director and his large team of writers remind viewers with short memories about Pakistan’s failed attempt to bomb the Nowshera ammunition depot and the shooting down of an Indian plane and capturing of the impressively moustachioed Wing Commander Abhimanyu Vardhan (Prasanna Venkatesan), who was returned to India after a social media uproar and international pressure.

Pakistan again denied that a F-16 fighter plane was used to shoot down the outdated ‘museum piece’ that Abhimanyu was piloting.

India drags Pakistan all the way to the international forum, Financial Action Task Force, where Pakistan was grey-listed due to India’s strong presentation of the requite proof, painstakingly collected. (In reality, the grey list was subsequently withdrawn.)

Ashutosh Rana, in dapper suits and a sneer, steals every scene he is in.

Never mind that is the despicable enemy, he brings to the table equal amount of wit and menace. He also gets some of the best lines when he verbally spars with Jimmy Shergill, who always has the right comeback, but looks too tightly wound.

Ashish Vidyarthi makes the best of his bossman role and Lara Dutta adds the glamour.

The aerial sorties in the early episodes of the series are choreographed (Stephen Moth) and shot (Tanveer Mir) efficiently.

Ravi Varma’s action sequences are directed well too.

On the one hand, the series engage in certain areas, like the planning and execution of missions. But in the other areas, it is either simplistic or unnecessarily convoluted.

So much of the show involves groups of men jabbering away in conference rooms and command centres with their banks of computer screens.

Only Kashyap is given an extended back story and a personal life. The other characters are more or less chess pieces being maneuvered on an oversized board.

Some trimming at the script level, if not later, might have helped the pace of Ranneeti to be brisk and the show much more gripping.

As it is now, it veers between intriguing and boring, the background music (Joel Crasto) often whips up more excitement than the scene on screen requires or deserves.

Ranneeti: Balakot And Beyond streams on Jio Cinema.

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