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Avrodh: The Siege Within review – Subtle portrayal of the consequences of the Uri attack

Release Date: 31 Jul 2020


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Keyur Seta

The late entry of leading man Amit Sadh does not hamper the web-series.

Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) was inspired by the surgical strike carried out by commandos of the Indian armed forces on terrorist-training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in response to a terrorist attack on a military camp in Uri in Jammu & Kashmir. Considering that the film was a runaway success and was released just last year, you wonder if it was a good idea to try and recreate the same tale so soon in a different format.

But the same story can be presented differently by a different creative team. This is what can be seen in Raj Acharya’s Hindi web-series Avrodh: The Siege Within. The series showcases the army operation in a less dramatic and simpler manner.

The writers have woven a fictitious story around the Uri attack and its consequences and dramatized some events about which we are clearly told in the disclaimer.

The story begins in September 2016. Close friends Major Raunak Gautam (Darshan Kumaar) and Major Sood (Pavail Gulati) are posted in Kashmir. Both are passionate about serving the country. In an operation in Anantnag, terrorist Bilawal Wani (Mehraaj Liaqat) is killed by Raunak and his team. 

That same month, terror mastermind Abu Hafeez (Anil George) and his associates start planning their next operation. Thus comes about the Uri attack in which at least 17 Indian army personnel are killed, including Major Sood. The fearless Major Videep (Amit Sadh) from the special forces is called in to lead the response.

Major Raunak is eager to be part of the mission, more so since he is heartbroken by the loss of his dear friend Major Sood. But Major Videep does not think he is fit to be part of the mission.

From the story so far, the reader may have got the sense that Amit Sadh makes a late entry in the web-series. In fact, his character enters the scene as late as in the fifth episode. Clearly, this was a gamble, but it has paid off for the makers. It’s a pleasure to see Major Videep take charge once he arrives on the scene. Sadh’s subtle act of a tough and fiery commando plays no mean part in it.

Darshan Kumaar gives decent support, though it is hard to understand why his character is sidelined for a while. Anil George fits the character of Abu Hafeez to the T. Vikram Gokhale plays India's prime minister, whose name is never used. He neither looks nor sounds like India's current prime minister Narendra Modi. But he cuts a commanding figure.

Neeraj Kabi as the prime minister's national security adviser and Anant Mahadevan as the defence secretary share an unusual bond. Sunita Bharadwaj brings the real-life character of the late former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj alive.

The writers have made smart use of the longer format to go into details of the story and create various subplots. This also means spending a good deal of time on the track of Abu Hafeez and other villainous characters. In fact, this is a rare saga on Kashmir where ego clashes between two terrorist groups professing the same aim are portrayed.

The biggest challenge for the makers was, obviously, how to handle the retaliatory operation by the army. The phrase ‘surgical strike’ isn’t used even once in the entire web-series. As far as the action sequences are concerned, Uri: The Surgical Strike would still rank higher. But there are no real complaints as the events keep you engrossed till the finale.

More importantly, there are no over-the-top chest-thumping dialogues that look so outdated in today’s era. The writing and presentation keep it simple, enough to create a feeling of patriotism without making a hue and cry.

A story of this kind, by its very nature, can turn into a propaganda vehicle for the government of the day. Sure enough, there are moments where it appears that the narrative is trying to please the powers that be. But overall the show keeps its balance.

One negative, however, is the portrayal of journalist Namrata Joshi (Madhurima Tuli). She is shown to be someone who creates obstacles for the government and the army. As she is the only media representative we see in the series, it appears as if the show is making a generalized statement about the news media.

SonyLIV is now streaming Avrodh: The Siege Within.

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