“It’s all a little too obvious”, a character in Robbie Grewal’s “Romeo Akbar Walter” quips while discussing an espionage operation. He might as well be talking about the film.
A historical spy thriller that is said to be a tribute to Indian intelligence agents who operated in Pakistan, “RAW” (the abbreviated form of the title that appears in the credits) tells the story of Romeo (John Abraham), a bank clerk who is recruited by India’s top intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), due to his acting abilities.
RAW chief Shrikant Rai (Jackie Shroff) and his men give Romeo a crash course in espionage and pack him off to Pakistan, which is preparing for a war against India in 1971. Romeo lands in enemy territory and immediately finds favour with Isaq Afridi (Anil George), an arms dealer who has close ties with the Pakistani army.
But this is not the only convenient plot point that Grewal (who has also written the screenplay) employs. Romeo undertakes his mission in full public view - opening secret notes in crowded markets, meeting with Indian embassy officials in their homes when expressly told not to - and even has the time for a clandestine romance. It is only when a sharp Pakistani army officer (Sikander Kher) becomes suspicious about his behavior that Romeo finds himself in a tight spot.
At 144 minutes, the film is 40 minutes too long and wastes too much time on sappy side-plots like Romeo’s relationship with his mother and his yearning for his motherland. John Abraham is well-suited as the protagonist given his inscrutable face, but he is done in by an overwrought script that tries too hard. Grewal relies on too many coincidences and contrivances for the story to appear convincing. When the final twist is revealed, movie-watchers would have figured it out from a mile.
Jackie Shroff is stylish as the head of RAW, but hardly anything else. Raghuvir Yadav, who plays Romeo’s contact in Pakistan, is sporadically good. Mouni Roy, who plays the love interest, is only there for cosmetic purpose given how badly-written her role is. In short, “RAW” sorely lacks finesse.
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