Omertà, noun, is a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to the police. Hansal Mehta appears to have broken this code by revealing the various heinous crimes planned and executed by the religious militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Yet, the movie is less than satisfying because Mehta makes the irreversible mistake of not dissecting Omar’s psyche. Instead, Mehta proceeds to construe a haphazard and lethargic narration of incidents that Omar is responsible for.
Omar is repeatedly lauded by his villainous colleagues for being an intelligent, well-educated man who has made the resolute stand of joining their cause. Many a time, this comes across as a bunch of radical nutjobs almost questioning the intelligence of his decision. But, this man, instead of exercising the intelligence he is constantly extolled for, smiles generously and sets on his path.
Path of what, you might ask? Mehta seems confused about the man’s intentions. At first, this LSE student is distraught by the atrocities fellow Muslims in Bosnia are being subjected to. Omar dedicates time and effort towards collecting news clips and visuals of the disfigured and decapitated victims. Such is his trauma, that he chooses to sacrifice his cushy life in Southall and heads to Pakistan for military training. One must wonder if war photography can truly stir a man towards barbarity. Later in the movie, Omar pompously talks to members of his family about the ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’ that he is receiving from his comrades for the work he is done. His motivations shifted, maybe.
Mehta butchers the screenplay with amateurish choppiness. Some portions, for instance, in the first half, are stretched and deliberately slow. Whilst other incidents, arguably of more significance, are treated with ignorant indifference. The pacing of the movie is also inconsistent, as the first half plods along like a jaded horse and the second half speeds past in a blink-and-miss fashion.
Apart from the treatment of the film, the main-man Omar is depicted as being inexcusably average. His genesis into becoming one of the most feared men in the world is far from convincing. His evolution too is quite sudden and laughably unpredictable. Omar transforms from academic to savage with very little to suggest the stimulus of this mutation.
Rajkummar Rao plays Omar with overwhelming restraint to the point of delivering a muted performance. For an acclaimed method actor, Rajkummar hasn’t taken the plunge into the mind of the man he is portraying, ultimately coming across as tepid and lightweight. His unsteady accent only serves as a distraction. Consequently, Rajkummar offers us one of his weakest performances in years.
Mehta and Rajkummar had voluminous content to explore. The subject-matter is extensive, which is why the shoddiness of the end-product is inexcusable. The makers have taken a half-hearted stab at the substance at hand, leading to a disappointment of epic proportions. Eventually, Omerta becomes a movie that can be missed; sadly, by doing so, one won’t be missing much.