The year is 1971 when relations between India, Pakistan and East Pakistan were tense and seminal events would determine the future of the three regions. In that mood, the Indian intelligence network, under the guardianship of R&AW(Research and Analysis Wing) was bolstering its presence on the other side of the border.
As chief of R&AW, Srikanth Rai (Jackie Shroff), a man with a taste for the finer things in life, also has a fine eye for recruiting the right candidates. He identifies and recruits a bank teller named Rehmatulla Ali a.k.a. Romeo (John Abraham).
Rai believes the intense young man is a master of disguise with the right motivation to put country first.
Writer-director Robbie Grewal does not adequately build up the process of Romeo’s identification and recruitment, nor does he dwell enough on the training and transformation of Romeo into Akbar, under Rai’s mentorship.
With cropped hair and kohl-lined eyes, Akbar slips into Pakistan and immerses himself in the mission. Abraham internalises Romeo’s confusion and is sufficiently impassive when conveying the character’s predicament.
Things are heating up in all three geographies and in a short time, Akbar finds himself thickly in the middle of a plan that would set the regions on the path of violent conflict.
But what happens when a spy is on the brink of getting burned? How does he separate present human relationships from the long-term goal? What happens to his own familial connections? Grewal attempts to explore the complexities and dualities of a life shrouded in lies and deceit but the story, which is based on true events, largely leans on tropes and remains superficial and unmoving.
Sikander Kher (as a Pakistani colonel), Raghubir Yadav (as Romeo’s colleague) and Shroff provide respite in a script that is high on detail but low on cogency.
The agents make some highly questionable decisions (such as spies having delicate conversations about highly classified issues in a public bar), and several plot points transpire without explanation. The songs are amber lights in an already jumpy narrative that squanders an opportunity-rich in potential.
(This story originally appeared on Livemint)