State of Siege: Temple Attack – Movie Review
Almost two decades back, 2 terrorists from Pakistan descended inside the world famous “Akshardham Temple” at Ahmedabad in Gujarat on 25 Sep. 2002 and massacred 30 people apart from injuring over 80 of them. They held the devotees hostage within the temple precincts overnight while also killing many of them one after the other until a terrost in India’s captivity was released in to Pakistan border. That these events unfolded in full public view and occurred right after the 2002 Gujarat riots left a deep scar in the development model the State claimed. Much has been spoken, written, debated on the media as well as the subject getting international attention. But a film on this topic is one of the first titled “State of Siege – Temple Attack”, a Zee5 Original that released on the OTT platform on 9 July ‘21.
Written by Willian Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo, the film has been Directed by Ken Ghosh and Produced by Rohini Singh and Abhimanyu Singh and features a long list of actors led by Akshaye Khanna, Abhimanyu Singh, among others. The film opens in the ice-clad mountains of Kupwara District in J&K where the daughter of an Indian Minister has been kept captive by Pakistani terrorists. Hanut Singh (Akshaye) and his team ensure a safe removal of the woman from the captivity but due to a foresight, loses Capt. Bibek (Akshay Oberoi) to the terrorist even as they try to arrest and capture Abu Hazmi, a notorious Pakistani Terrorist. Hanut is admonished since he went ahead with the operation though his Commanding Officer Col. Nagar (Praveen Dabas) denies him the approval, and he loses a coveted Captain in the operation as well as unable to capture Abu. Couple of months later, the NSG team is now required in Gujarat where the Chief Minister Manish Choksi (Sameer Soni) is addressing a gathering of Investors at a private 5-Star Hotel. The day the NSG arrives in the city coincides with four terrorists also arriving by train to capture the Krishna Dham Temple (name changed in the movie) in a white colour Ambassador car. The infiltrants terrorise the entire precinct even though the entry point already has security guards to screen devotees. After randomly killing people in the vicinity, the team is split in to two teams and as per the phone orders from the high command in Pakistan, they take up people in to captivity.
They have been ordered to kill the hostages one by one, every 30 mins until the Indian Government agrees to release Bilal Naikoo (Mir Sarwar) who, incidentally was captured by none other than Hanut Singh a few months back in the previous operation. After losing the first hostage (very filmy though) the Indian Government agrees to release the terrorist in captive. But the NSG team feels that this could be a coup by the Pakistani Terrorists as their men were already trained to commit Jihadi suicides – thereby fearing the innocent public in hostage will any way be bombed by the terrorists. Every time the NSG moves ahead, they get ambushed by the Terrorists and that’s when Hanut feels there is an information leakage. To his horror, he finds that a local sweetmeat shopkeeper who’s son is a captive inside, has made a deal with one of the terrorist for safe return of his son in exchange for information about NSG movements. The rest of the film revolves how the terrorists are shot down by the NSG even as scores of public and the media outside the temple watch in horror, the proceedings right in front of their eyes.
While the film is depicted as a “work of Fiction” in the opening credits, it looks awkward that the film is inspired by “True Events”. Well, this is cinema, after all. But reel imitates real, and never the other way around. Ken Ghosh has taken creative liberties to ensure the audience is clued in for the 110 mins the film runs sans songs (thankfully – I was dreading ones like in the film Border!). Tejal Shetye as Director of Photography has done a wonderful work showing parts of J&K and perhaps shot at some of Uttranchal’s snow clad peaks which look really mesmerising.
The film remains gripping almost all through but for some distractions here and there and a ends on a philosophical note sermoned by the Head Priest about good and evil.
A good weekend watch. The narrative might be a bit heavy on children under 14 years. Caution.