Rohit Shetty’s indefatigable cops make an ungainly, if not wholly wobbly, landing in the universe of web shows. They go after “India’s most wanted terrorist” – a young man who has sinister plans up his sleeves but looks like he would be hard-pressed to swat a fly. The resultant thriller is hackneyed and devoid of genuine heat and dust.
Indian Police Force,an Amazon Original Series, is, for all intents and purposes, a slightly altered and toned-down version of Sooryavanshi (2021), which was Shetty’s fourth Cop Universe movie. If anything is different here, it is this: the seven-part series isn’t as strident in tone as the film. It pits an intrepid Muslim police officer against a radicalised youth out to wreak havoc across India.
The series makes no visible attempt to be a gritty, granular portrayal of the men and women who make up the overworked security apparatus that battles day in and day out to keep India’s sprawling national capital city safe. It pans out in a manner so stilted and unstimulating that it is never in with a realistic chance of rising above the mundane.
Created and directed by Rohit Shetty with a story and script by Sandeep Saket and Anusha Nandkumar,Indian Police Force makes the cardinal error of chasing surface gloss and routine thrills instead of seeking immersive, hard-hitting realism.
The show is packed with action sequences, shootouts and chases but is unusually low on the thunder and high-pitched bluster one associates with the Cop Universe. That does not, however, necessarily enhance authenticity. The show’s facile style prevents it from being the compelling police drama that it could have been.
The principal cast members – Sidharth Malhotra, Shilpa Shetty and Vivek Oberoi – generate no real spark of freshness given the stale material they are trapped in. They go through the motions of exuding bravado and invincibility. Their swagger is laboured and their verbal volleys are vacuous. Tragedy does strike the team at a crucial juncture but they keep going, unmindful of the dangers they face in the line of duty.
The principal protagonist, Kabir Malik (Malhotra), is the first Muslim policeman in a universe of Singham, Simmba and Sooryavanshi – a balancing act in a screenplay that cannot eventually look beyond convenient and established binaries.
One of Kabir’s key associates, Tara Shetty (Shilpa Shetty), Gujarat ATS chief, is summoned to help the Delhi Police Special Cell when a series of blasts rocks the city. His superior in the force, Vikram Bakshi (Oberoi), Tara’s academy batchmate, is a calming influence when the pressure mounts. Also by their side is an unflappable Rana Virk (Nikitin Dheer).
Kabir, it is suggested, is hot-headed and given to breaking protocol although we do not ever see him fly off the handle in any significant way. However, in the opening moments of the series, he is stuck in the police force’s housing department, a job he understandably has no enthusiasm for. He itches to return to the field.
When bombs go off in another city and intelligence inputs suggest that Goa might be the next target, Kabir figures out that the man behind all of the terror attacks is the same man – Zarar (Mayyank Taandon). He convinces his boss, Jaideep Bansal (Mukesh Rishi), to let him handle the case.
The prime suspect has changed his name, married a young student Nafeesa (Vaidehi Parashurami), and retreated to Darbhanga, Bihar. But once the manhunt begins, Zarar and his accomplices have few places to hide because the cops, with an undercover secret agent Jagtap (Sharad Kelkar, who makes a late appearance) launch a covert cross-border operation to nab the terrorists.
Kabir Malik’s name, unlike that of Mumbai Police Joint CP Kabir Shroff (Jaaved Jafferi) in Sooryavanshi, does not instantly give away his religious identity. So, when the cowering terrorists he captures assert that their actions are a reaction to the wrongs that they and their families have been subjected to, the intrepid officer holds himself up as a true Muslim, brave and just.
There are others. Two terrorist brothers are disowned by their parents. Do not spare them, their mother says to one of the police officers. The father of a boy who has strayed into a sleeper cell refuses to go on Haj pilgrimage with money provided by his prodigal son. And a young woman in danger of having her life turned upside down takes a ‘patriotic’ stand at the expense of her personal happiness.
Notwithstanding its quest for balance, Indian Police Force does little to add to (or enhance) our understanding of how policing really works on the ground in a bustling Indian metropolis that needs round-the-clock surveillance in the face of the many threats that loom over it.
The show is a patchwork of cliches, at best an extended cut-and-paste job that juggles components from the director’s successful big-screen police procedurals. It does a pale and sterile job of piecing together a story of men (and a woman) in uniform who put their lives on the line in the service of the nation.
Neither rousing in style nor radical in approach, Indian Police Force is just another rather tame, entirely predictable cat-and- mouse affair that wends its way through bomb disposals, police raids, gunfights, explosions and flying vehicles. It is like watching another Rohit Shetty film with a different aspect ratio.
The audience knows from the very outset where it is all going to end up with its “not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” line. It has been done to death. As a result, the show offers no real bang for the buck.
With a preponderance of drone/fly-cam shots that swoop over the city skyline often taking in the touristy sights of Delhi and Goa punctuated with street-level action involving the police officials tackling serious personal and professional challenges, Indian Police Force has the look and feel of a big-screen production that has incongruously ended up on a digital platform.
Instead of providing the kind of exhaustive view of a city on the edge that Delhi Crime offers, Indian Police Force is content with dishing out conventional action blocks and chase sequences.
The biggest attribute missing in Indian Police Force is force. Playing out on expected lines, the Prime Video show is as dry as dust. It is only for inveterate fans of the Cop Universe. It is in dire need of a fresh infusion of inspiration.
Sidharth Malhotra, Shilpa Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Mukesh Rishi, Shweta Ashok Tiwari, Mrinal Ruchir Kulkarni, Nikitin Dheer, Mayyank Taandon, Vaidehi Parashurami, Sharad Kelkar, Ritu Raj Singh, Isha Talwar