Sat, 18 Oct 2008 15:54:39 GMT

'Shoot On Sight': Review

The tagline of Jag Mundhra's Shoot On Sight asks 'Is it a crime to be a Muslim?'  It is a hypothetical question and sort of gives away the filmmaker's intentions—of raising issues but taking no real stand.

'Shoot On Sight': Review

Review by Deepa Gahlot

After the London bombings, the mood was so jittery, that the cops mistakenly shot a Brazilian youth as a suspected terrorist.   Mundhra makes the victim into an innocent Muslim boy, and to defuse the scandal, a Pakistan-born cop Tariq Ali (Naseeuddin Shah) is assigned the investigation, with the promise of a promotion.

Tariq is married to a White woman Susan (Greta Scacchi), has two kids, a smooth personal life (except for slightly rebellious daughter), till Zaheer,  his nephew from Pakistan (Mikaal Zulfikar) lands up.  There are little hints of racism, mainly in the condescending way his boss (Brian Cox) behaves with Tariq, and the hostility of fellow officers who are being investigated.

Zaheer falls under the spell of rabid hate-spewing Iman Junaid (Om Puri) and causes a bit of an upheaval in Tariq's life.  He is photographed shaking hands with the Imam and splashed on the front pages of a tabloid.  Meanwhile there is a raid at a terrorist hangout, one of them escapes and Susan suspects it is Zaheer.

Instead of staying with the investigation and Tariq's battle with racism and communalism,  Mundhra goes all over the place.  There are needless scenes of the daughter's romance with a White boy, for instance,  or one of Tariq meeting with relatives, which don't really convey anything.

He tries to balance Tariq's anguish with the White officer's point of view, that shooting the boy was a split second decision and he could have been shot too.  Lest he is seen as racist ("all terrorists are Muslims," he says), Mundhra adds a small scene of him at home with a brown-skinned wife. 

If the villain is the Iman, then he is given speeches that convey a valid point of view.  There is Tariq's friend (Gulshan Grover), who is pained at the change of attitude towards Muslims after the bombings, but refuses to be drawn into the politics of violence.  Mundhra tries to balance so many points in a effort to be fair to all sides, that he ends up dropping all the balls.  And, without dropping a spoiler,  what can be said about the predictable climax, but that it is  clichéd with a capital C.

In the end, the impression the film leaves is that a perfectly honest, assimilated British citizen, can also have a terrorist relative whose mind cannot be changed by love and liberalism, which, sort of, defeats the purpose of the film's avowed secularism.

Naseeruddin Shah brings to his role the skill and dignity that can be expected of him, and Om Puri is really toxic as the instigator of violence, most other characters seem a bit cardboard . Shoot On Sight remains at a flat telefilm level, never reaching any heights of provocation-- inviting thought or debate, a fresh look at the problem,  or even controversy.

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