Telugu superstar Nagarjuna thinks this is the best time for him to do action films. And he is right. His other recent film Wild Dog was also an out-and-out anti-terrorist actioner with Nagarjuna playing a rogue agent who would stop at nothing to annihilate terrorism.
There was hardly a moment in Wild Dog where Nag is not on his feet furiously chasing down and gunning one dreaded terrorist after another. The narrative gives us no time to think. There is hardly any pause and thankfully no song breaks, as Vijay and his team chase the Yasin Bhatkal modeled terrorist to Nepal from where he must be extracted without blood spill. It’s all done in the spirit of a thrilling adventure. And that’s not such a bad thing. Just because a film owes its allegiance to newspaper headlines, it doesn’t follow that the content must preserve a reportorial dryness of tone. While ensuring we the audience remain hooked to the proceedings Wild Dog also applies a well-researched plot to the proceedings.
In The Ghost, Nagarjuna is back as a rogue agent who must stop terrorism because, well, according to Vikram, it never stops. Neither does the action in The Ghost. The stunts are chic and stylish. They convey a sense of urgency that comes from placing Nagarjuna, an actor who knows his histrionic and action chops so well he can get into a fight-to-death without blinking an eyelid.
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The Ghost doesn’t give us a chance to blink. Full marks to writer-director Praveen Sattaru who rarely allows the words to get in the way of action. Most of the action where Nag is occasionally joined by the pretty Sonal Chauhan is shot in an arresting rugged hinterland. The climax in what looks like an abandoned church, sees a head being chopped, torsos being sliced into half, necks being splashed.
All of this is shot with a keen eye for physical detail. Dharmendra Kakarala edits the robust action sequences with ruthless economy. You won’t find flab in the narrative.
The cinematography by Mukesh G is at once eye-catching and no-nonsense. The hinterland may look fetching while the men do what they have to. No one is bothered, least of all Nagarjuna who goes about the business of bursting the crime bubble, not so much for the nation this time as for the family.
A very elegant Gul Panag in raw-silk sarees plays Nagarjuna’s beloved sister and the heiress of an empire threatened by bad presence. When she calls after decades of estrangement, Nagarjuna’s Vikram, alias The Ghost, rightly presumes that something awful has happened. And it has.
Without giving away the diabolical twists and turns that clutter the narrative it is sufficient to say that the pace never slackens, even the characters often seem to get exhausted by the relentless manoeuvrings.
At the core of this impressively staged action drama is the relationship that grows between the intelligence officer and his rebellious teenage niece. The likeness to Ryan Gosling’s love-hate axis with Julia Butters in The Gray Man is hardly the issue. The tangible immediacy that the narrative brings to the plot, remains with the audience till the end.
The Ghost is a work pregnant with aspirations. Ambition to annihilate terrorism from the face of earth may seem a tad unrealistic. Nagarjuna isn’t in this to change the world. He just wants us to have fun. And in that endeavour, The Ghost is an experience that doesn’t give up easily.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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