Released in India on July 19, 2013, D-Day is a film by Nikhil Advani, co-produced by Dar Motions Picture and Emmay Entertainment. Despite generally rather favorable reviews, D-Day did not fill the theaters and was a flop at the Indian and international Box-office. The director is also the co-creator of this work, from beginning to end.
The movie takes place over a rather brief period around the operation of ex-filtration from Pakistan of the man most sought after by India, a mafia chief and terrorist, largely inspired by the real figure of Dawood Ibrahim. The character, named here Iqbal Seth aka Goldman is embodied by Rishi Kapoor, who is delighted to find a real great role to his measure, after his brief appearance as generous stepfather and the glass-always-to-in-hand, in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, or his unconvincing performance of a rather stupid father of Ranbir in Besharam.
For the past nine years, Wali Khan (Irrfan Khan), senior Indian intelligence officer of RAW, has settled in Karachi, where he apparently leads the peaceful life of a neighborhood barber with his wife and young son. The announced wedding of the son of Goldman, in a large hotel in the city, in the presence of ISI agents, the Pakistani intelligence agency, a general and the terrorist himself, will cause Triggering Operation Goldman, with the secret approval of the Indian Prime Minister and RAW chief Ashwini Rao (Nassar).
Wali Khan is soon joined by Rudra Pratap Singh (Arjun Rampal), a former sabotaged officer of the Indian army, a real mercenary, and by Zoya Rehman (Huma Qureshi), a RAW explosives specialist, and by Aslam, a small mob of Bombay, also infiltrated as a driver of Goldman. Before the operation was initiated and to shelter them, Wali took his wife and son to the airport so that they could fly to England, where he was to meet them a few days later.
But at the other end of the world, fate is going to take the form of an unexpected and unrelated event. It is the famous flutter of wings of the butterfly that will modify its unfolding, so well planned, and dramatically change the fate of the four secret agents.
The film begins on the eve of the day scheduled for Goldman's abduction. The construction is based on a succession of flashbacks and skilfully jostles any chronology to better maintain the suspense and the twists. If one accepts the rather simplistic postulate of departure, the sought-after man, Goldman-Dawood, is responsible for all the attacks perpetrated in India.
The plot evokes by far that of Zero Dark Thirty on the track of Osama Bin Laden by the US special services. No plagiarism nevertheless. The reference to the US operation is explicit and put in the mouth of an Indian politician before he gives the go-ahead to Ashwini Rao.
The action is fast and skilfully filmed, on a sustained tempo. The twists and turns are linked without leaving the time to blow to the extreme, surprising end of the film. Scenes of violence are never free and complaisant. There are sometimes inadmissible deaths, of the unbearable, but the filmmaker usually makes it thanks to the viewer. The torture of Aslam, for example, is only evoked by the tumefied face of the young man.
On the other hand, when he shows Wali kicking himself on a man he has just landed, before being detained by Zoya, or when Rudra literally massacres Goldman's nephew, this corresponds to an intense moment of tension for the protagonists. They act under strong emotions, which in some way exonerate them and only arouse the spectator's empathy. Their flaws make them closer and rid the film of any Manichaeism. There are, of course, some bad guys, very bad guys, the Pakistanis, and the Goldman clan, but on the other side, the heroes are complex and they are prey to the most human and contradictory feelings.
At the same time, the related love stories that surround the narrative have their place in it, which is rare in this kind of film, and does not seem to be tackled. They are those of the main heroes, Wali with his wife Nafisa (the debutante Shriswara), and Rudra with Suraiya (Shruti Haasan), the prostitute with a big heart disfigured by the scar that bars her cheek. The elegance of the director consisted of not adding to it and evoking more lightly, by simple telephone messages left unanswered, the personal life spoiled by Zoya.
The personalities of the protagonists are well exposed. Female roles are strong roles that are not merely useful. That of Zoya, of which we have just spoken, is perhaps the weakest, the least excavated. The character of Suraiya who shelters, in the district of Karachi, Rudra, and who humanizes it gradually, is more developed and deep. Likewise that of Nafisa in the secondary employment of wife completely ignorant of the real activities of Wali. The director makes them exist, just as he manages to run parallel to the end the male duo-duel, Wali-Rudra, without one taking precedence over the other.
Of course, this is possible only because D-Day is served by an exemplary cast. Rishi Kapoor, as has been said above, masterfully pitches a Don on the decline but still menacing. It seems that he was inspired by the known images of the true Mafia Dawood. Arjun Rampal and Irrfan Khan are excellent. If this has become a habit of which Irrfan obviously does not get tired, Arjun has not accustomed us to such a mastery of play.
He is grave, tense, and preserves the mystery of his character until the end. The three actresses who represent Zoya, Suraiya, and Nafisa, are Huma Qureshi, Shruti Haasan, and Shriswara respectively, who are not left behind. Shruti stands out distinctly, aided by the complexity of her character as a marked woman. In every sense of the word, she has a remarkable presence.
Finally, the soft, engaging, melancholic music in counterpoint to the action, comes each time at the right time to bring down the tension, or moderate it. It integrates with the film, which nevertheless has an essence of Bollywood, in that it classically accompanies the intimate transformations of the characters. The songs are very beautiful and the album, naturally released before the film, was very well received. Duma Dum Mast Kalandar will probably not be remembered, but the Qawwali song Murshid Khele Holi and the very poignant final piece Dhuaan will be given special mention.
In conclusion, D-Day is a rhythmic film, well made and elegant in its staging, with some small inconsistencies that one will forgive willingly. The patriotism that permeates the work is reminiscent of the one that we have long seen and that we still see, in films of the same kind in Hollywood but it is much more bearable.