Avrodh: The Siege Within review — SonyLIV series presents a riveting portrayal of 2016 Uri attack sans hyper-nationalism
Based on Rahul Singh and Shiv Aroor’s book, Avrodh: The Siege Within carefully charts the militant activities in the contentious region of Jammu and Kashmir
Vicky Kaushal’s shoutout to the Indian Army’s effort through Uri: The Surgical Strike was an honest portrayal of the strategic task forces that work tirelessly to safeguard the nation. Aditya Dhar’s deft hand at direction produced a compelling narrative that divorced itself from hyper-nationalism as much as it could, while clinically showcasing the military coup. Raj Acharya’s take on the Indian retaliation of the 2016 attacks weaves a similar story of grit, patriotism, and keen precision that ensured India’s global standing as a military force to reckon with.
Based on Rahul Singh and Shiv Aroor’s book, India’s Most Fearless, Avrodh: The Siege Within carefully charts the militant activities in the contentious region of Jammu and Kashmir. The story highlights the series of events that sparked off with the death of notorious militant leader Burhan Wani (whose name is changed in the series).
That political and military wings work hand in hand to curtail long-standing feuds within national borders is a given, but Avrodh takes its time to establish the intricate workings between the two worlds. The Sony Liv series carefully dissects each political aspect — India’s relationship with Pakistan on paper vis-à-vis the actual rivalry behind media spotlights, her equation with the US, the controversial position of PM Narendra Modi’s decision to not attend that year’s SAARC summit — all are shown to exist within a delicate balance, threatening to crumble at any moment.
The acting in Avrodh is (for the most part) quite riveting. Each character comes to life in an appropriate manner. Neeraj Kabi’s depiction of the National Security Advisor (Ajit Doval at the time), Vikram Gokhale’s precise portrayal of Modi, Amit Sadh’s able handling of Major Videep Singh’s character are especially praiseworthy.
The nine-episode run, despite its languid start, never feels hackneyed or heavy with jingoistic tropes. Shanu Singh Rajput’s cinematography holds the viewer’s attention with ample close-ups and drone shots. Even though the backstory may already be known to many, Avrodh succeeds in providing new insights into the chain of events.
The main antagonist Abu Hafeez, is played by Anil George. Kohl-rimmed eyes and a heavy local accent adorn the actor’s understated performance as the formidable leader of jihadist Islamic Mujahideen group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Jaish works in surreptitious ways, clearly proclaiming their contempt for India’s occupation of Kashmir. Their ulterior motive aside, Hafeez’s villainy is never overbearing. You understand where he is coming from, and almost see the world through his warped vision, till the moment he enters a local school and brainwashes young boys for “the cause.”
Barring Madhurima Tuli’s character (as an overzealous journalist, Namrata Joshi), each character weaves an honest portrayal of their parts. Namrata stands out as an odd peg, passionately waving the ‘journalist’ tag whenever challenged. The character comes across as an annoying addition to an otherwise smooth script. Her scoops turn out to be national security hazards that impede India’s aim to achieve success under strict secrecy. Her transformation to author in the climax seems a forced step, an almost contrived art-imitating-life moment if you will.
One of the major loopholes that Avrodh cannot bypass is its portrayal of a national political voice, bolstering the Uri attacks. Gokhale’s character often slips into the role of a political icon rather than a functional cog in the national machinery. The show could have done well by completely avoiding such hyperbolic depictions. But barring few scenes, Gokhale shines in the prime minister’s role.
The goings-on at Uri were national news, and hence, the series stood a good chance of becoming a hackneyed subject, especially with how high the “josh” had been around it. But, Avrodh steers clear of unnecessary excessives. Moments of fervent war-cries and impassioned speeches on national pride do not seem misplaced and could well be considered necessary in those high-octane scenarios.
The series puts noticeable effort into genuine storytelling and succeeds. Avrodh has a lot to offer through its nine episodes, even if Vicky Kaushal’s near-perfect Vihaan Singh-Shergill seemed the epitome of true patriotism for most.
(All images from YouTube)
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