Like Waar, Phantom only provides momentary adrenaline to reactionary patriots
Kabir Khan is a well-known and renowned Bollywood director and it’s pretty clear by now that he is not interested in directing and producing ‘masala movies’. Since his directional debut, Kabul Express in 2006, he has made five films and there’s been a geo-political angle in all of them.
Phantom is the latest movie directed by Kabir Khan. The film has created way too much controversy due to its subject matter, the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Additionally, the time of release hasn’t aided the movie either, keeping in mind the rising tensions along the Line of Control (Loc).
The basic background of the movie revolves around a covert operation commissioned by RAW, which requires killing all the convicted and alleged perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The mission is carried out by a disgraced former officer of the Indian Army, Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan).
The movie begins with the RAW headquarters in focus. A meeting between senior officials is interrupted by a junior officer, who takes the liberty to suggest a covert operation against terrorists in Pakistan. After a go ahead from the head of RAW, Daniyal, who is rejected by his family and is living in solitude, is convinced that if he carries out this operation, it will definitely restore his dignity and honour. The movie then unfolds, showcasing Saif Ali Khan on a killing spree in the UK, US, Syria and finally, in Pakistan, killing all the terrorists RAW wanted him to eliminate.
The Phantom team should have known that such an idea and storyline would garner a lot of negative attention from across the border. Therefore, in order to rein in viewers and success, the team should have been more sensitive towards the audience, focused on viewers who watch movies for the content, and those who are not offended by the topic or issue at hand, but unfortunately, there were quite a few glitches in the story line and the presentation turned out to be a disappointment.
For instance, killing an already sentenced terrorist in a US prison, depicting a stereotyped ultra-conservative urban populace in Pakistan where most of the males are wearing prayer caps all the time, and the depiction of Lahori weddings is also quite perplexing. Furthermore, it is mind-boggling as to how they manage to flee from Lahore to Karachi by road in just 10 hours.
This is Kabir Khan’s second consecutive movie, after the Box Office hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan, in which he has showcased Pakistan intricately but failed to grasp the true essence and picture of it. Most of the people who are well-acquainted with the ground realities of Pakistan would smirk at the ignorance of the director’s portrayal of Pakistan.
The stance held by the actor and director regarding Phantom is that the movie is not anti-Pakistan, rather anti-terrorism. Although, if the movie is showcasing Saif on the hunt for Pakistani terrorists, this overrides the director’s stance and automatically implies that Pakistan is a facilitator of terrorism.
Trying to appease both parties, namely Pakistan and India, is impossible.
Another alarming aspect this movie has highlighted is the subconscious glorification of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), simply with the use of reverse psychology.
The movie is an amalgam of fictional and non-fictional characters and events. The reach and power of all those non-fictional characters shown in the film will only consolidate their invincibility. Had Zero Dark Thirty been made before the Abbottabad operation, it would have only inflated the prowess of Osama Bin Laden.
As for acting, Saif has done justice to his role whereas Katrina Kaif’s character, Nawaz Mistry, is quite confusing. Her character has been shown as someone being influential yet naïve, and even emotional in her professional resolutions. Katrina’s acting lacked depth; the audience is subjected to the same old superficial expressions.
Surprisingly, Phantom doesn’t include a long list of songs like your usual Bollywood movies. There are only three songs out of which two seem like space fillers, while the third one, Afghan Jalebi, was the only song that stood out and had a catchy tune.
The movie hasn’t given any thoughtful message regarding the rational behind dealing with terrorism, rather it’s more of a revenge and honour affair. Phantom, like Waar, can only provide momentarily adrenaline rushes to the reactionary and hyper patriots.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.