For once the underworld don isn’t a dashing hero––all swagger and invincibility merely because he’s essayed by current reigning star. But he's obviously modelled on Dawood Ibrahim––with whom Bollywood’s long-standing fascination continues––as Nikhil Advani’s D-Day blatantly plays the emotional card meandering through the streets of Karachi, implausible plot in tow, to bring back ‘India’s most wanted’.
He’s not called Dawood by name, yet Rishi Kapoor of shiny wardrobe and rose-tinted shades sportingly hams him up to the likeness of that dreaded mastermind of terror attacks on Indian soil who fled the country two decades ago and has evaded the government and intelligence authorities ever since––though word on the street is he’s sitting in Karachi under ISI patronage.
Advani’s band of boys (which includes a token girl expectedly relegated to sidekick status) plan to capture Iqbal Seth or the Goldman, on the night of his son’s nikaah, which the gangster insists on attending despite being cautioned against it by his handlers. “Daraa ke dukaan khadi ki hai, darr jaaoonga toh band ho jaayegi,” he retorts and you silently applaud the dialogue writer (Niranjan Iyengar) who goes one-up on the ‘70s-style throwaway lines of the senseless Once Upon A Time In Mumbai with this punch.
The four warriors, Wali (Irrfan, terrific), Rudra (Arjun Rampal, handsome, and he gets by most times with just that), Zoya (Huma Qureishi) and Aslam (Aakash Dahiya) have been enlisted by the outgoing chief of the R&AW (Nasser) in this covert operation which the Prime Minister indirectly blesses before taking off to report to ‘Madam’. Against the backdrop of Mika’s frenzied rendition of “Dama dam mast qalandar” (performed on screen by Rajpal Yadav of all people) the opening sequence is superbly edited, building up to a parking-lot face-off with the don.
At this point, instead of moving ahead, the narrative goes into flashback explaining the four musketeers’ passage to Pakistan and of these, Wali’s story is the most engaging. He’s been living in Karachi as a barber for nine years trying to gather intelligence about Iqbal. But he’s also married and fathered a cute son, hence torn between his mission and love for the family––a conflict Irrfan plays out very convincingly in the urgency with which he tries to hold on to them even as he sends them off.
Zoya’s story happens entirely on the audio track (with Raj Kumar Yadav playing the lover she’s left behind in England) while Rudra’s liaison with a prostitute (Shruti Hassan) is predictable and time-consuming, barring a soulful Rekha Bharadwaj number, “Ek ghadi aur theher, ke jaan baaqi hai" which voices the delicate emotions neither actor can persuasively convey.
D-Day’s problems begin in the second half when it sheds all pretence to realism and launches into a hunters-become-hunted trajectory. More often than not, we are taken in by the fiction of Hollywood thrillers largely because the action never lets up long enough for us to reflect on the believability of plot etc, which isn’t the case here.
Still it fares slightly better than standard Bollywood potboilers, being reasonably well-acted and produced––an imaginary recreation of Karachi offers a refreshing change from the much-abused streets of Mumbai and Delhi––and the action sequences are well-choreographed. But perhaps Advani and his editor Aarif Sheikh should have heeded the Goldman’s advice to Wali in the parking lot, "Trigger kheench, maamla mat kheench!"