Cast: John Abraham, Mouni Roy, Jackie Shroff, Sikander Kher, Raghuvir Yadav
Direction: Robbie Grewal
An espionage tale needs to be taut and edgy. In ’Romeo Akbar Walter’, alas, the melodrama overpowers the narrative and what should ideally have been an exciting couple of hours at the theatre are nothing more than a laborious watch.
Romeo Ali (played by John Abraham) has a mundane job as a bank employee, but he is good at theatrics and manages to make time for stage plays. Romeo is handpicked by the Research and Analysis Wings (RAW) chief Srikant Rai, who believes that he has the ability to become a successful spy. The movie is set against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan just before the 1971 war.
Romeo is prepped and readied by the RAW chief himself to live in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir), first, and then figure out a way of living in our neighboring nation to gather intel for the Indian government.
The premise seems engaging, but the director fails in its execution. Instead of keeping the script tight and the screenplay exciting, the filmmakers drag the proceedings with dollops of sentimentality and drama. Peppered with unnecessary romance, songs and other distractions, the film proceeds tediously towards a predictable climax.
I remember being enraptured with ‘Raazi’, seeing how an ordinary student transforms herself to become an asset for India’s intelligence services embedded in a Pakistani household. In ‘Romeo Akbar Walter’, you might find yourself dozing off in the first half as the pace is so slow and languid. Romeo’s transformation to Akbar Malik is just glossed over.
Romeo, we are told, is supposed to be instinctive about things. The audience, however, sees none of this; in fact, he even seems to commit some rookie mistakes while collecting crucial information.
The second half packs a relative punch, with several twists and turns, but the momentum slips intermittently as the director suddenly decides to cut to a song or a flashback.
We don’t even have to go as far as Hollywood and compare Romeo to a Jason Bourne to evaluate how spectacularly our hero fails to convince us that he is the right choice to play an adept spy. In contrast, once again, Alia Bhatt’s fabulous job in ‘Raazi’ comes to mind.
John Abraham’s strength has always been his brawny, well-sculpted body. Here, sadly, he doesn’t get a chance to exhibit his skills as an action hero. The sluggishness with which he approaches the role fails to convey the mental and physical nimbleness that the job of a real-world spy requires.
Simply put, John finds it impossible to carry the weight of the film on his shoulders.
The two who actually make an impression are Raghuvir Yadav and Sikander Kher. Their performances are sincere and commendable.
In sum, Robbie Grewal’s ‘Romeo Akbar Walter’ has an interesting premise, but falters in many aspects. Like everybody else, I too love a good spy thriller. This one, be warned, is an absolute letdown.