Omerta is a biographical crime drama about the story of Ahmed Omar Syed Sheikh, the dreaded British terrorist of Pakistani ascent who is infamous for many chilling crimes including the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, kidnapping of 4 foreign tourists in 1994, masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks amongst others.
Omertà literally means “a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to the police.”
Hansal Mehta chooses to present his well-researched story (worked on it for 13 yrs) in a cold and clinical manner. Interspersed with real-life news footages, it has almost a docu-drama feel, except for the fact that this one is absolutely gripping and chilling.
The story focuses strictly on the period when Omar Sheikh gets inducted into the Jihad, his training, the major criminal activities that he was involved in and ends with an update that he is still alive in Pakistan awaiting a so-called death sentence.
Mehta and Mukul Dev( who has co-written) avoid getting into Omar ‘s past or childhood or personal life or psyche or what made an educated young man from a good family well settled in London get completely brainwashed.The atrocities on his brothers and sisters in Serbia is the only apparent reason shown that moved him.The only peep into his personal life is through his father, played by Keval Arora. He is a soft-spoken, educated man who is much concerned about his son’s involvement in these activities but gives up after some time.
The reason could be that the writers did not probably have any researched facts about what turned that man into a dangerous terrorist considering that not much is known about him personally. He apparently did not suffer any personal tragedy and lead a luxurious life.
They also might not have wanted to justify his acts and thoughts by dwelling upon any such past.
What seems like a thought through decision by the writers actually gives us an all the more disturbing feeling.
It leaves us wondering and scared as to what makes these bright educated young people go astray and so radical in their thoughts.The ease with which they slip into that harsh life of danger and violence and how convincingly they can justify the bone-chilling violence as means to achieve their end, all in the name of religion, is unnerving.
The camera work by Anuj Rakesh Dhawan is great. Inspite of the darkness of the plot, I felt he did not let that seep into the frames to add feel and just let it be as factual. One of the grisliest scenes has been handled very well without showing any violence on screen and just using some spine chilling noises.
The sound design by Ishaan Chhabra was in perfect sync, again avoiding to add any dramatic feel.
Aditya Warrior’s editing is great. The pace of the movie was relentless despite the fact it was almost documentary style. He made the movie as gripping as a thriller. The real footages were woven seamlessly.
Performance might be the last thing to be spoken. But that’s because Raj Kumar Rao needs no validation for the kind of actor he has proven himself to be.
For me, as Omar, he has outdone himself. The character he plays is so dark, the looks in his eyes, so heartless, the tenor of his character so different from the shades that always reflect in his performances. In fact, he has worked upon very well on his accents that he switches flawlessly in the film. He’s in practically every frame and his hard work is evident right from his body language to his eyes and expressions.
All other artists in even minor roles have been cast well (casting by Mukesh Chhabra ) and performed well.
What Mehta remarkably avoids is adding any theatrics, or emotions (positive or negative). And that’s how he achieves this tightrope balance of showing things without any perspective.
The marvellous thing about this film is that it has a story which has no beginning, no end; it gives you no reasons, no justifications; it doesn’t aim to make you cringe or well up with emotions; yet leaves you cold and awed by its storytelling.
Score 8 on 10