Shoot On Sight is a political thriller which deals with the difficult dilemma
of mostly peace loving Muslims, in these turbulent times, when a cosmopolitan
society, especially London, is gripped by fear of Islamic extremism, racial
profiling and Islamophibia during aftermath of underground bombings in July
The film is a fictional drama dealing with the London Police order of
Shoot On Sight after the underground bombings in 2005. The film unfolds
the turmoil in the life of Tariq Ali, a Muslim Police Officer at Scotland Yard.
Commander Ali born in Lahore and married to an English woman, is tasked to
investigate the police shooting of a suspected Muslim terrorist in the London
Underground. Distrusted by both his superiors in the police, and his fellow
Muslims, he finds his inquiry hampered from all sides. When evidence surfaces
pointing to the slain man`s innocence, as well as the existence of a terrorist
cell operating in his own backyard, Tariq must face the realization that
sometimes, the right decision is the hardest one to make.
`Shoot On Sight` lays out blueprint for global terrorism
"Shoot On Sight" works as a
wake-up call for those slumbering in their bourgeois belief that terrorism is as
far away from home as Osama Bin Laden is from the US.
It`s a frightening piece of fiction laced with a fair amount of warmth and
affection that lulls us into a false sense of wellbeing. In essence, the plot
takes us back to the domesticated terrorism of Alan Pakula`s "The Devil`s
Own" or more recently Subhash Ghai`s "Black And White" where a
young wide-eyed seemingly-unspoilt guest in the house turns out to be a
Where "Shoot On Sight" scores is in laying out the blueprint for
global terrorism through characters who appear real in words, body language and
Jagmohan Mundhra has earlier balanced a social cause with a message in
"Provoked". Here the `thrill` element emanates far more effortlessly
from the characters and their predicament, partly because the theme of terrorism
renders itself far dramatically to a cinematic treatment than domestic violence.
London is shot by cinematographer Madhu Ambat with all its inherent buzz and
blemishes without fuss or rush. The flow of adrenaline as the British cops zero
in on their distinguished Pakistani colleague`s nephew as a terrorist is rather
reined in than rushed.
This isn`t a film that`s in a hurry to get there. But it knows how to value the
And this is where "Shoot On Sight" scores the optimum impact. Mundhra
revels in generous levels of understatement most of the time. Whether showing
the fanaticism in the mosque (Om Puri, aptly extravagant) or the dilemma of the
cop`s Pakistan-British daughter - Mundhra packs it all into the simmering
cultural cauldron with dexterity and dignity.
While on the whole the characters in the cop-protagonist Tariq Ali`s home and
workplace come to life with vigorous fluency, some portions of the storytelling
fall flat. Naseer`s assistant, played by Laila Rouass, comes to a soggy end in a
river with the suddenness of a video-game with its socket pulled out. The
hastily-executed climax in a shopping mall where Tariq Ali`s nephew is shot down
with a sweeping-under-the-carpet haste, is a screaming shame.
Mostly, Mundhra uses economy of expression to great effect. Sometimes just one
or two scenes are enough to establish the camaraderie between characters
creating a crisscross of inter-relations with disconcerting deftness.
There`s just one intimate interlude in the kitchen at the start between the
Pakistani cop Naseer and his British wife played Greta Scacchi. It`s enough to
show the enduring empathy between the couple. The rift that seeps into their
marriage because of the closet-terrorist nephew`s presence in their house is
again represented in a flash of anger and indignation where Naseer accuses
Scacchi of discrimination.
A culturally-defining moment that stays with you after the last bang-bang.
A major part of the film`s success goes to the the actors. Om Puri as a radical
clergy, Gulshan Grover as Naseer`s butcher-friend, and the British actors, who
play Naseer`s colleagues at the precinct, they all add a wealth of credibility
to Mundhra`s tale of malevolence in a city that`s outwardly a haven for healing.
Debutant Mikaal Zulfikar as Naseer`s nephew gives a comfortably-defined
performance. Mikaal gets the point early in the narrative when on arrival from
Pakistan in London, driving from the airport he gets to know his English aunt
has not converted to Islam.
Watch the young actor`s subtle shift of expression from easy grace to disgust
and disapproval -- it`s frightening to see because it reflects the reality about
how young people all over the world are converted to extremist causes.
What finally gives "Shoot On Sight" a compelling edge beyond the
expected, making it more than just a pantomime of post-terrorism mores, is
As always Naseer merges into the character pitching the emotions at a level
where they appear to be thought of on the-the-spot and certainly not for the
sake of a camera. Domestic scenes and details served up in delicious vignettes
provide a back projection to Naseer`s complex character. Naseer glides
effortlessly with his character as it goes from cultural comfort to
fundamentalist isolation. The actor and the character become one.