Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, the British terrorist of Pakistani descent, is the man being explored in the movie, Omerta. What made him what he is, that is, a disgusting terrorist?
Hansal Mehta has made it clear that he wants his audience to come out of the movie with disgust and despise for the protagonist. That, he has achieved. The scene towards the end of the movie, in particular, portraying the murder of Daniel Pearl, the abducted ‘The Wall Street Journal’ journalist, makes sure that you do feel aghast and despise the man from the core.
The work with the camera is done well. The scenes where Omer meets his victims are nicely done. Rajkumar Rao again does well to get into the skin of his character. His looks totally justify the character he is playing. Rao does portray well, in the beginning, the trouble going on in his head for what’s happening with Muslims around the world and makes proper faces to show his resolve to do something to improve their situation. He does perfectly play his character giving all the perfect expressions to trap his victims and then to make them do what he wants them to do.
With a movie maker like Hansal Mehta, pursuing a story of a man like Omar Saeed, one expects more than just surface level exploration of the character. That one gets to get to the core of what’s driving him. Not just the core that’s driving him, but to feel him within us and get goosebumps. This. Hansal couldn’t achieve with Omerta, like he did with his ‘Shahid’.
The movie feels a little not well written, with more depth not being explored. There are some simple glaring mistakes in a scene at the training camp in the ‘naarey baazi’. There are many instances where conversations, though mostly short, are too trite to be watched. All of the scenes involving the imam of some mosque in UK are too boring to reveal anything of substance to understand Omer’s evolution of thought and his worldview. These are conversations one would see in some typical Bollywood movie, not from Hansal Mehta’s movies.
The transformation of a boy who wants to help organizations that provide relief for Bosnian victims to a man who could kill mercilessly stabbing multiple times, with the victim’s blood spilling all over his kurta, face and spectacles, and yet not feeling any guilt has not been explored with diligence. It appears that the pursuance of ‘disgust for the protagonist’ has pushed this aspect to the backseat. The kind of knowing the mind of the criminal and his background that we got to see in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 is missing in Omerta. There is an attempt to show what’s driving him. It is poor. It is not even a dialogue in his mind. It is a simple singular say, with images of people butchered in Bosnia. And by the end of the movie, it doesn’t even stick in your memory. It is the ghastly scene of Daniel’s murder that is stuck.
The movie is still good to watch. If one has to rate it on a scale of 5.0 then I would give it 3.0 taking away 2 points for the lack of depth one would expect from Hansal Mehta.
But there are bigger questions that need to be asked. What is the movie’s worth? How does it add to the discourse of Islamophobia, and of Otherisation? Does it do any good to the world that is already neck deep in Islamophobia? It doesn’t. This is not to say that it is a dishonest movie. It isn’t. But the movie is anachronistic as well. It is a decade late. A decade earlier also wouldn’t have made it any better, though. It is not conversational. It doesn’t make you think. It makes you feel aghast. Nothing more. As we seek these questions and themes, the movie seems highly unjust to the current times.
There is no Omer that we are facing today. We face Junaid’s lynching. We know nothing yet, the whereabouts of Najeeb. We face staged encounters where unsurprisingly the victims are from one particular community. The zeitgeist of the time is the nationalist lynching mob. Waiting for some proper movie maker to be courageous enough to not just show some gruesome acts and make us feel ‘aghast’ but to take us into the criminal mind, get us into a conversation, get the audience to think.