Sidharth Malhotra once again graces the silver screen in a uniform, this time under the guise of Flight Lt Arun Katyal, reiterating his penchant for essaying the quintessential soldier in the newly released film “Yodha.” The movie, which emerges after his notable performances in “Shershaah” and “Mission Majnu,” pits Malhotra’s character against the backdrop of the 2001 Indo-Bangladesh border skirmishes, a tumultuous period marked by fierce exchanges between the Bangladesh Armed Rifles and the Indian Border Security Force.

This high-octane drama takes Flight Lt Arun Katyal on a perilous journey, navigating the treacherous terrain of patriotism and duty as he successfully thwarts the attempts of infiltrators eyeing Indian territory. His valor and competence, however, are put to the ultimate test when a hostage crisis unfurls during one of his missions. Katyal finds himself in the throes of a life-or-death decision when the aircraft he is on, “Air Hindustan,” is seized by armed terrorists as they fly the country’s top nuclear scientist to safety.

Amid the life-threatening chaos, a burning question arises: should Arun Katyal heed his instincts and tackle the hazardous situation solo or should he stand down and wait for orders? Opting for the former, his audacious choice leads to devastating consequences as he fails to prevent the crisis, resulting in his suspension and a tarnished reputation.

Further compounding his distress is the potential dissolution of the special task force, a creation of his father (played by Ronit Roy), heightening the gravity of his failure. This instance initiates Katyal’s personal and professional unravelling, as his marriage to Priyamvada Katyal (enacted by Raashi Khanna)—a ministry employee—struggles under the weight of strained loyalty and unwavering principles.

Time marches on, and Arun Katyal, now a scarred and once-revered soldier, is faced with a possibility of redemption as he stumbles upon another hostage predicament. The question remains: Can this be the moment for Katyal to reclaim his former glory and honor?

Sagar Ambre and Pushkar Ojha’s directorial venture, “Yodha,” lacks novelty and instead treads the familiar patriotic narrative with its overreliance on well-worn clichés and tropes. The film’s attempt to infuse nationalism and heroism into the story culminates in implausible scenarios including a highly symbolic grenade emitting India’s tricolor.

Despite its predictable underpinnings and the narrative’s occasional lack of coherence, Sidharth Malhotra stands out for his portrayal of the beleaguered officer. Malhotra brings to life the spirit of Flight Lt Arun Katyal, exuding the raw determination of a soldier whose resolve, though tested, remains unbroken. His physicality and on-screen presence anchor the film’s action sequences and bolster its overall watchability.

Accompanying Malhotra onscreen are Disha Patani, taking a detour from her typical roles to assume the part of the antagonist Laila, and Raashi Khanna, whose portrayal of Priyamvada Katyal adopts a poise that is neither undignified nor conventional. Alas, both actresses are afforded limited screentime, which curtails the impact of their performances.

The film starts on an engaging note, briskly moving through its plot, but subsequently surrenders to a slower pace in its latter half, unnecessarily elongating the runtime. The inconsistent writing fails to bolster the compelling start, often faltering in pacing and narrative strength.

In spite of these hindrances, “Yodha” ultimately hinges on Malhotra’s ability to single-handedly salvage the film’s appeal. Drawing from a pool of contemporary patriotic cinema, “Yodha” becomes a reflection of an all-too-familiar genre but is undeniably commandeered by Sidharth Malhotra’s earnest and charged performance.

By IPL Agent

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