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Major movie review: Homage to 26/11 hero goes beyond the noise of a gun’s barrel

Adivi Sesh’s Major, a homage to 26/11 hero Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan brings to life the sacrifices of the army families, bravery of NSG soldiers. But it needs more.

I was in school when the deadly attacks on Mumbai shocked the nation. For over 72 hours, in the final week of November, India was glued to the television screens while a group of terrorists from across the border wreaked havoc. 175 people were killed in the dastardly attack when the government decided to bring in the elite commando unit.

Once the National Security Guard (NSG), a force made from voluntary deputations from across the spectrum of Indian forces, entered the theatre of war that spread across Mumbai, not a single casualty was reported, except one — Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.

“Don’t come up, I will handle them,” became immortal as the officer on deputation from the Indian Army cleared the Taj Palace hotel – room by room, block by block, floor by floor – saving tourists, staff, and locals.

Major, released this Friday, captures the essence of the man, the force, and the bravery of the unit that successfully executed operation Black Tornado introducing the world to the tip of the spear of the Indian Armed Forces alongside the fearless Marine Commandos (Marcos).

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, played by Adivi Shesh, went on to receive the Ashok Chakra posthumously for his bravery in what was India’s 9/11 moment.

A FATHER’S ODE TO HIS SON

Unnikrishnan, who now runs the Sandeep Unnikrishnan Memorial Trust, which helps girls who need a little push in their education, had once said he stands on the merits of his son, the same son who he wanted to have a stable career and become an engineer.

Prakash Raj brings to the fore the fears, vulnerabilities, and courage of fathers, especially when their sons are in an infantry unit, no less the NSG. Prakash Raj and Revathi successfully portray the Unnikrishnan couple, who are a strong unit over a decade after their son made the supreme sacrifice.

Major showcases the sacrifices made by fathers, mothers, children, wives of Army officers, and jawans while they chase the ultimate goal of ensuring the safety of a grateful nation. Being the son of a now-retired Army officer, who served in the same Bihar regiment as Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, I know what families go through while their loved ones are out on the border, in jungles, and in operations that at times no one will even hear about.

OVER THE TOP PORTRAYAL NEEDS A CHECK

Adivi Shesh, who plays Major Sandeep to the tee, has also written the screenplay of the film inspired by the true stories of the Unnikrishnans. He has been able to live the life of Sandeep before and after he was commissioned into the 7 Bihar regiment after completing three years at the National Defence Academy, and a year at the Indian Military Academy.

The problem is the obsession of Indian film stars with portraying all the roles themselves including the teen years of the subject (But then you need eyeballs too). What also pains is the shabby way in which life at the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) has been shown in the name of cinematic liberty.

The training is gruelling but it’s also filled with a lot of fun, camaraderie, and celebrations, it’s not always patriotism, but more a way of life. We need more access to these institutions just as Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya managed to showcase the life inside the academy that inspired a generation to pick the uniform.

As the action shifts to the Taj, Shobhita Dhulipala ensures that we get to feel the mounting fear when you know any breath could be the last and what the tourists stuck inside Taj must have felt during the siege over Mumbai. Major Sandeep was responsible for directly saving 14 people, while his actions saved 137 others in the close-quarter battle. There could have been more focus on showing the planning that went into the extraction and recovery of those tourists led by the NSG and how the force remains India’s potent weapon in close combat missions.

Major will go down in history not just for introducing India to the bravery of Major Sandeep but also for the courage of his parents, who are not just proud of their son’s achievements but see him in everyone whose lives he touched over the years, saved during the siege of Mumbai and went on to become the legend that he is today.

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