For a Hindi film to simultaneously pay homage to two classic Hollywood scenarios is verging on miracle territory. To do so by stitching together a top-tier ensemble cast is better still. With decidedly clever re-crafting of the most memorable scenes from the Vietnam-era Apocalypse Now(1979) and the claustrophobic courtroom drama A Few Good Men (1992), Khan’s tautly composedShaurya jumps ahead of the pack.
Bose’s best roles (Mr. and Mrs. Iyer,Chameli) have been as reluctant bystanders who land in stormy waters. Sticking to the same modus operandi, Bose playsShaurya’s Major Siddhant, a goofball newbie military lawyer commissioned to defend a docile soldier (Dobriyal) accused of the cold-blooded murder of a superior officer in a court martial. Expected to lose, Siddhant forms a loose alliance with Kaavya (Lamba), a nosy local reporter.
Stonewalled at every turn by the military’s code of silence, Siddhant soon suspects a conspiracy.
As comfortable Bose is with his legal eagle stripes, the better bet is Menon, who plays the jingoistic Brigadier Singh and struts off with the two singularly best scenes. First, Menon channels Robert Duval’s arrogant colonel, who summed up his universe by banking on the smell of napalm. Singh’s calling card is a golf game in which he tempts mortality by playing dangerously and literally on Kashmir’s Line of Control—within hair-trigger distance of nervous Pakistan soldiers. Menon’s other moment is a courtroom outburst in which he reenacts Jack Nicholson’s famous “you-want-the-truth” diatribe to a stunned courtroom. All fire and brimstone and almost foaming at the mouth with contempt for the court, Menon’s Singh verbally lashes out with a fantastic Hindi equivalent of Nicholson’s illogically circular soliloquy. Both moments are priceless.
Beautifully supported by Biswas as the mother of the accused, Jaffery as Siddhant’s best friend and the government’s leading lawyer, and Rao, as the victim’s mysteriously un-grieving widow, Shaurya rightfully earns a prominent place on this summer’s DVD circuit.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.