What is the story about?
A group of four terrorists storm into a temple in Gandhinagar, killing many people and taking others hostage. Even as the Indian government gets ready to hand over dreaded terrorist Bilal Naikoo to his comrades, elite NSG commando Major Hanut Singh, with the backing of the chief minister Manish Choksi, decides to mount a counter-offensive in order to secure the temple. But can Hanut overcome his previous trauma and succeed in this mission?
State of Siege: Temple Attack is meant as a tribute to the elite NSG commandos, who work in complete anonymity, fighting and neutralizing potent threats to civilian life and the country. I'm not kidding when I say this, but Ken Ghosh's film shines best when it focusses on the workings of an NSG unit. The commandos are human as well, with their own dreams, but they also realize they cannot have a normal life unlike most civilians, and Ghosh's film shows that beautifully. In Major Hanut Singh, we also get a sense of how senior commandos often have to ensure their personal weariness and psychological trauma don't come in the way of their skills.
The problem, however, lies in the way the rest of the film is constructed. William Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo's screenplay is so content with being a generic action thriller that it undermines the focus on the actual attack and the NSG's counter-offensive. It's clear the Akshardham temple attack of 2002 has been dramatized with a lot of creative liberties, and yet the makers are unsure whether to depict events as close to reality as possible, or go all out on adding fiction, with even a subplot surrounding the release of a terrorist that is inspired by the 1999 Kandahar hijack. As a result, even though the action sequences are topnotch, the sloppy writing, coupled with a lack of character development, hampers State of Siege: Temple Attack, even though its lead protagonist does a solid job of grounding the film in some level of respectability.
Akshaye Khanna holds the shaky screenplay together, with his Hanut Singh being another reminder of how the actor can bring variety and nuance even in an action avatar. In fact, it would be nice to see him helm an action franchise a la Liam Neeson's Taken. Gautam Rode's Major Samar shares a fun dynamic with Hanut, and it is fascinating to watch their banter, but he doesn't get much time. Vivek Dahiya is all right as Captain Rohit Bagga. Parvin Dabas is aptly reserved and strict as Col. Nagar, Hanut's superior, while Sameer Soni is suitably world-weary as chief minister Choksi.
The terrorists, played by Abhilash Chaudhary, Dhanveer Singh, Mridul Das and Mihir Ahuja, however, lack nuance. Kenny Desai plays Swami Matora, the head priest at the temple, who is saddened with everything happening in the temple. Chandan Roy is all right as Mohsin, the sweeper at the temple. Pavleen Gujral pops up as a female security guard stuck in the crossfire, while Manjari Fadnnis cries and frets at the sidelines as a woman witnessing her entire family stuck in the temple. Abhimanyu Singh and Mir Sarwar play dreaded terrorists Abu Hamza and Bilal Naikoo perfunctorily.
Music & Other Departments
Kartik Shah's background score is bombastic. The production design by Gauri Tiwari and Prasun Basu is good. Manohar Verma and Rinku Bacchan design the action sequences well. Tejal Pramod Shetye's cinematography is okay.
Akshaye Khanna's performance, and the harrowing action sequences are the highlights.
Lack of nuance in the screenplay
Lack of character development of the supporting cast
Did I enjoy it?
I found the film average. The only sequences worth watching are the ones featuring the NSG at work.
Do I recommend it?
You can give this a one-time watch for the solid Akshaye Khanna. But there are better action-dramas about the NSG and Indian Army you can watch anytime.