Sunday, June 22, 2008

My 2 virtual trysts with Islamic terrorism

What do the book ‘The Afghan’ and the movie ‘Aamir’ have in common? Islamic terrorism as a backdrop. What do they not have in common? Sorry for being blunt, but the sheer substance of both plots. Since I had the chance of encountering both over the past week, I just thought I’d share my two-pence-worth thoughts.

Let us start with the Afghan. The plot, as is always the case, revolves around an AQ threat to the US. All the allied intelligence forces of the US and the UK have as evidence are, a laptop belonging to a financial wizard belonging to the higher echelons of the AQ and a rather ambiguous phrase ‘Al-Isra’, that literally translates to the mythical journey from earth to Allah undertaken by Prophet Muhammed. It is up to the ‘smart’ guys of the CIA and MI5 to try to figure out what major catastrophe awaits the US or the UK or some other part of the world.

The solution, they soon realize, is to send a Para brought up in Iraq into the proverbial ‘inner circle’. What happens thereafter is the story. Or at least that is what the build-up of the story betrayed.

Unfortunately, as happens with all major projects, the distance between the goal and the end result is too much. Although the terror plot as professed to have been hatched by the AQ looks truly formidable, the whole story which is supposed to trace how the Intelligence forces of the world uncover this deadly plot, just seems to pull on, describing inch by inch the mountainous terrain of the Tora Bora! Secondly, no achievements of the deadly/feared Afghan, as he is many-a-time referred to, which in turn give him the epithet are described. Other than being a true son of the soil, and displaying true Pashtun characteristics of being a daredevil, brave-heart fighter, typical characteristics which unfortunately do not warrant a real reverence from the side of the AQ, no other great behavioral or leadership milestones are described. Alright, so he is accepted as one of the clan for some reason not known to us. But then he is directly sent by Osama himself to be a part of their most shocking event to date. Why? Because of an old rendezvous in a cave wherein the then 14 year old Afghan had clumsily mumbled that he wanted to fight for Allah! Oh well, Go figure!!! Alright!!!! So he is sent to the most ambitious AQ attack to date. And what does he do there? Acts like a silent observer. As if he has been put into the book, just because they need a firangi protagonist! All in all, everything happens like clockwork. All pieces fall into place as if the whole plot – both sides – have been orchestrated by the intelligence forces. And, surprisingly no former friends of the Afghan, including his inmates at Gitmo, who ironically had ratified the Afghan’s story try to make contact with the Afghan, even by chance. Plus, you seem to discern the actual plot pretty early in the story.

So the high points – Highly picturesque descriptions of Afghanistan and Waziristan which have more than amplified my desire to go look at these beautiful geographical blessings of nature and a truly formidable, deadly idea of the AQ.

This puts in mind another book on terrorism that I read a few months ago – The Bourne Betrayal. The plot – very well conceived, embedding a personal vendetta into the greater milieu of terrorism. The modus operandi – a tad fantastic – a la Face/Off. The suspense – brilliant. The protagonist’s operation – very believable. He does not have situations and opportune events presented to him on a platter. So, the resulting book is quite interesting, fast-paced and a real page turner all the way.

Now we go to the second topic – the movie called Aamir. The plot – simple yet believable. A Muslim doctor lands from the UK and is shocked to realize that there is no one there to pick him up outside the airport. He is given a cell phone, where an faceless voice tells him what to do. He is told that his family has been kidnapped and he needs to follow the instructions in order to see them alive. The viewer then travels with Aamir through his day tying to figure out the labyrinthine plot that the villain has in mind. As said before, the plot is plain simple.

The magic lies in the way the movie has been taken. Indian media has been rather vocal about the way in which the movie was taken, using hidden cameras to provide the ‘realism’, so to say. And I am afraid the ploy has delivered. Over and above imparting a real feel to the goings on, you view the movie as if you are a by-stander watching Aamir as he follows the guidelines provided by the caller. A second high point is the characterization of the protagonist. He is an average middle class youth, who is keen on carving a niche for himself in his life and supporting his younger siblings. This is a true projection of the urban youth of today, who play no part in the fundamentalist manifestations of the terrorists of today, but that of the hapless victim. So you can actually experience his vexation at being the chosen one, his frustration at not being able to understand why things happen the way they happen and also his vacillation as the plot draws to a close, wherein he is torn between his personal loss and a humanitarian loss. Finally, one must applaud the acting capabilities of the lead actor – Rajeev Khandelwal. He has definitely entered the skin of the character and portrayed the complex emotions, with aplomb. Not a mean achievement for a first movie.

So although a simple premise, the juxtaposition of the plot, the characterization and the acting capabilities of the protagonist make this movie a must-see.

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