“Omerta”: Is it Worth Watching?

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A film on international criminal mastermind Omar Sheikh has many things going for it, including a riveting subject, a meaty storyline, and the contemporaniety of events. The film seems all the more promising with Rajkummar Rao at the helm. Unfortunately, Hansal Mehta’s “Omerta” doesn’t impress despite these factors.

The movie is a documentary style exposition of Omar Sheikh’s life starting from his days as a young student in London up till the present moment; where he’s apparently safely ensconced in a Pakistani jail in spite of the death warrant on his head. The story is interesting, but an oscillation between an excessively slow and extremely fast pace makes the plot wishy-washy. The first half takes a while to build up, and includes some shaky editing where two different phases of Sheikh’s life are shown simultaneously. This plot device is unnecessary and a sequential rendition of events would have served the film better. The second half literally runs through major historical events, and is quite rushed.

Rao has proved himself in many different roles, but is the wrong choice for this one. He fails at Sheikh’s British accent, which is instrumental to capture his personality of being a foreign, educated and intelligent man. The strange accent he adopts in an attempt to replicate Sheikh, seriously hinders his otherwise sound acting capabilities, as all his dialogues sound fake. If Mehta was keen on a bilingual film, he should’ve cast someone else; or should’ve stuck to Hindi where Rao would excel at the complex emotions, as he has many times in the past.


Rajkummar Rao in a scene from the film. Picture courtesy: http://www.theindianexpress.com

The other actors perform well, but the chemistry is strongly lacking between most of them. The audience isn’t moved or affected where it should be. The background score is effective and well-placed and there are no intrusive songs thrown in unnecessarily. The cinematography is deliberately dark and reminiscent of recent Hollywood films of this genre, such as “Argo”.  Unfortunately, this comparison pulls “Omerta” down further. It’s a far cry from the brilliance of that film.

I can credit “Omerta” with its stark portrayal of a terrorist’s point of view. As laymen who follow the news, we often view them as monsters, without thinking about the reason behind their heinous acts. I can’t say that Sheikh would agree with his own portrayal if he watched the film, but Mehta has certainly made this elusive and dangerous character very real and believable.

Overall, I’d say the film shows effort but lacks soul. It could be attributed to the flawed dialogue delivery of Rao, the slow pace of the plot, or the unimpressive editing, but I think the real culprit is Mehta’s direction. When a director is handed a plot of gold he should be able to convert it to cinematic glory.

Film rating: 2.5/5

*Film poster courtesy: http://www.koimoi.com