• Release Date: 02/04/2021
  • Platform: Netflix
  • Cast: Nagarjuna Akkineni, Bilal Hossein, Saiyami Kher, Atul Kulkarni, Dia Mirza    
  • Director: Ahishor Solomon

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)  

Vijay “Wild Dog” Varma (Nagarjuna) is battered and bruised NIA operative who has lost his daughter to a bomb blast triggered by the Indian Mujahedeen. Because of his murdering ways around terrorists, he is taken off active field duty and is forced to take up a desk job. With the Indian Mujahedeen striking deep in the heart of the Indian economy, the NIA is forced to bring back the Wild Dog and unleash it on the Indian Mujahedeen. After some initial challenges, Vijay Varma and his team learn that the head of the Indian Mujahedeen is hiding in Nepal and they take it upon themselves to track arrest and bring the man back to India. The rest of the film is about how the Wild Dog and his team go about completing this difficult task.

I love films of this nature and when it is done well, there is no reason not to like it. Evidently, the story is about the arrest and deportation of Yasin Bhatkal, the man who masterminded a large number of bomb attacks in India. We have seen this story before in an equally well-made film, India’s Most Wanted (featuring Arjun Kapoor as the protagonist). Wild Dog takes a lot more flimsy and action-packed approach to the story and it isn’t long before we realise that Vijay Varma and his team are no less than the Avengers. They don’t put forward a single wrong step, they never miss their targets and when they are inconvenienced, they always come out of the situation with the swagger of a Telugu action star walking towards the audiences with an S. Thaman score pulsating in the background.

Does that take anything away from the film? Not necessarily unless you were expecting the wrong things from it in the first place. The trailers and the promotional materials made it abundantly clear that this would be one of those stylized and hyper-active action thrillers that depended as much on the action set pieces as it did on the charm and gusto of its leading man. In this case, Nagarjuna has the right amount of charm and screen presence to make the viewers forget all the film’s logical deficiencies and concentrate on his swagger and heroism. He even holds his gun sideways but does it so convincingly that I had no qualms with that unusual way of gunplay. The director gives the character just enough back-story to make us understand and care for his wild ways and also why it is so important for him to deliver justice to the Indian Mujahedeen.

I really enjoyed the fact that the story is rather laid out and while the basic plot is just about nabbing a man, it has many aspects to it. The tale starts with the wild dog and his team understanding who their target is. This portion involves going after various sources to decrypt the look of the man. The next part of the story is about finding out his location and the finale is about nabbing him and bringing him from a hostile country making a hole through their defense mechanism and swiftly side-changing officials. The director makes it a point to show us the nexuses between the terrorists and the Maoists in Nepal and how they help each other for mutual benefits, I wasn’t expecting so many elements to be in this tale and was sweetly surprised by how far it stretched its reach.

The film’s action is a little erratic. While some of the gun battles look beautiful and have a lot of physicality to them, there are sequences, particularly involving Nagarjuna and Saiyami Kher that feel out of place and caricaturish. The film would have been served well if it had its action sequences rooted in realism. Sadly, to present a heroic personification of the leading man, most of the action sequences go over the top and border on being animated. If that is not enough, the team is never really threatened or harmed. They travel between two countries, face combat in urban and jungle conditions, and have grenades and explosives hurled at them. Yet somehow, the men make their way out of it all without any scratches on them. This was one of the aspects of the film that I felt frustrated about.  

The supporting cast of the film was also not what I had expected of a film of this kind. If it wasn’t for Nagarjuna’s charisma and the constantly moving story elements, the cardboard rendering of the other characters by the ensemble cast would have had a lot more pronounced negative impact on the likeability of the film. Saiyami Kher, one of my favorite actors of recent times was uncharacteristically wooden and ineffective. Her rendering felt more scripted and less organic and that made her character even more caricaturish. Bilal Hossein plays the principal baddie and he adds nothing unique to his rendition of a Mujahedeen that we haven’t seen before. He follows the same tropes and recreates the same expressions that actors before him have made famous. He isn’t even able to incite fear for his character. Thankfully, even with all its deficiencies, Wild Dog still doesn’t cease to entertain. The entertainment value is at the core of what makes this film so watchable and intriguing. It is unapologetic about how it achieves that even when it is at the cost of believability, authenticity, or for that matter respect to the laws of physics. Nagarjuna is a charmer and he is definitely the best thing about the film. It is a treat for his fans as he is present in every scene of the film. He makes the most of the screen time that he is given and grabs our attention with his stellar act. The film’s story is the next best thing and the many aspects of it that are approached throughout the narrative. Overall, it is the kind of film that can be watched for the purposes of entertainment and forgotten almost instantaneously.

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