Mumbai, 11 Jul 2021 23:26 IST
Akshaye Khanna delivers a mature and controlled performance as an army major who is filled with regret and guilt and looking for one opportunity to prove himself.
Ken Ghosh's State Of Siege: Temple Attack is loosely based on the terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in Gujarat's capital city Gandhinagar in 2002 and re-enacts the daylong siege which cost 30 lives and was ended by commandos of the National Security Guard.
Devotees arrive at the temple on 24 September 2002, expecting to offer prayers and spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation. Instead, they are met by four gunmen filled with rage and having just one motive — to shoot everyone in sight.
Within moments, the place turns into a war zone and everyone runs for their lives. The terrorists take a few devotees hostage. They have only one demand. that their commander, Bilal Naiku, be released from a jail in Jammu & Kashmir.
Soon Major Hanut Singh (Akshaye Khanna) with a handful of NSG commandos rushes into the premises to take charge of the situation and rescue injured devotees as the rest of the NSG team is still four hours away.
Writers William Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo spend quite a bit of time establishing the basic premise. The film spends almost an hour establishing various subplots before Major Hanut Singh arrives at the temple gates, which is quite long in a film with a runtime of 110 minutes.
A template has been set for movies of this genre. A soldier trying to come to terms with a mishap in a previous failed mission, another who has left his pregnant wife at the hospital, a selfish man helping the bad guys just to save his loved one, and an evil mastermind who coaches his followers over headsets about kafirs (non-believers) and ungodly luxuries. There is hardly anything you haven't seen before.
Despite the familiarity of the subject and its presentation, director Ghosh along with his writer duo manages to keep the viewer's interest afloat with some genuinely tense moments such as the first encounter between the terrorists and Major Hanut Singh or the conversation between the hostages and their captors.
Films like these sometimes veer into melodrama, and it also happens here. Which by itself wouldn't have been a big deal if the film had well-rounded characters to care about. But as none of the characters, be it the soldiers or the hostages, leaves any strong emotional impact, these melodramatic scenes feel superfluous. In fact, it's the mad rage and intensity of the four terrorists that forces the viewer to care about the well-being of the hostages.
Akshaye Khanna delivers a mature, controlled performance as a man filled with regret and guilt and looking for one opportunity to prove his worth, not just to his superiors but also to himself. He doesn't have as much screentime as one would have hoped for, but he still makes it count. The same can't be said for the rest of the cast though. None of the supporting characters has any depth or sufficient screentime to make a strong impact.
One thing that needs to be appreciated is that there is no unnecessary chest-thumping about the army or overt nationalism on display. There is a matter-of-factness in Ghosh's direction that makes the victory scenes appealing. All said and done, State Of Siege: Temple Attack is a decent film that you won't regret spending two hours on.
State Of Siege: Temple Attack was premiered on Zee5 on 9 July.
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