Major Movie Review

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was an officer in the Indian Army serving in the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guards. He was killed in action during the November 2008 Mumbai attack and was consequently awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award. Major is a fictionalised account of his life. As his father K Unnikrishnan (Prakash Raj) proudly says as a commemorative function, “My son’s life was not about the way he died but about the way he lived.”

In the film, we meet the person who later became the martyr, giving his everything for the love of his country. We see Sandeep (Adivi Sesh) grow up with the love of uniform in his eyes, mesmerised by the white of the Navy. Circumstances force him to choose the Army, where after completing the regular course, he joins the commando training course and tops that, and later becomes a training officer. We see him boldly crossing the L.O.C. in Kashmir and playing cricket with the local kids in the no-man’s-land, we see him training fellow-soldiers with eagle-eyed vigilance and we also see him struggling to strike a balance between personal and professional life. We’re also introduced to the love of his life, childhood sweetheart Isha Agarwal (Saiee Manjrekar). She doesn’t want to just be an army wife and has ambitions of her own. They both share a deep bond but tensions surface in the relationship because of the nature of his job. Isha’s character states in the film that while everyone talks about the sacrifices made by the soldiers, but no one realises the sacrifices made by their families. Their love story isn’t your typical Bollywood fare but has the ebbs and flows of a normal relationship.

The second half of the film is dedicated to the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 26 November 2008. The notorious acts of Kasab and other infiltrators are shown in gory detail. The terrorists took over the iconic Taj Mahal hotel and the NSG commandos managed to rescue the hostages and kill those responsible in a multi-day operation. While creative liberty is taken in recreating the events happening inside the hotel, they still leave an impact. Seeing so many people being mercilessly killed shakes you up. Sandeep is shown as a one-man-army taking on the rescue operations single-handedly and jumping back into action even though injured. Parallel to his track, we also see Sobhita Dhulipala, who plays a guest named Pramoda Reddy. She helps rescue a little girl from the clutches of the terrorists and goes through some edge-of-the-seat moments. The sequences add another twist to the film’s plot and acquaint us with the terror faced by the innocent bystanders.

The media gave a blow-by-blow account of the rescue operations and the Pakistani handlers watching TV were able to communicate the moment of the commandos through that. Editorial discretion was sorely lacking at that juncture and that point too is raised by the film. A media blackout surely would have saved more lives but that was a command decision that should have been taken by those in power. It was a bitter lesson learnt.

Sandeep’s last words reportedly were, “Don’t come up, I’ll handle them.” The poignancy of the last scene stays with you, as he’s shown firing in the enemy’s direction till his dying breath. Adivi Sesh, who has also written the film, gives an inspired performance playing the titular role. He seems to have understood what Major Unnikrishnan stood for and brings in the late soldier’s pride and commitment to his performance without going over the top. The sincerity with which he essays the role is palpable indeed. Adivi is destined for bigger things after this. Saiee Manjrekar looks good as the partner who finds she isn’t getting what she asked for and is unhappy about it. It’s a balanced performance from the young actor, depicting both love and frustration. Veterans Revathy and Prakash Raj make their presence felt as the grieving mother and father. The little nuances that they bring to their gestures sets them above the rest by a mile. Murli Sharma plays the stern commander with a golden heart and pulls it off without a hiccup. Sobhita Dhulipala too is effective as the braveheart hotel guest who does her best to save a child.

All-in-all, Major is a fitting tribute to Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a soldier who went beyond the call of duty to help his fellow countrymen in their time of need. He showed us what true gallantry looks like and Adivi Sesh’s performance gives us a glimpse of what kind of a man he was – a true warrior who lived and died by his own code.