For unjustifiable reasons, Shoorveer — now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar — brings together the (best of the best from) Army, Navy, and Air Force. It's really an excuse for Shoorveer to give us jet planes and dogfights. But the cameras on the new Hotstar Specials series never actually took off. Everything shot against the sky is fully reliant on green screens or computer-generated imagery (CGI). The latter is plain awful. Video games from 10 years ago have better graphics than the quality of CGI on Shoorveer. Look, I wasn't expecting Top Gun: Maverick — it doesn't help Shoorveer that the Tom Cruise movie and its brilliant action sequences are fresh in the minds of audiences — but Star Wars did better with its miniatures in the 70s and 80s than Shoorveer does with its computer animation.
Thankfully, the aerial action doesn't form the bulk of the show's runtime. But it would be easier to ignore or look past the terrible CGI were the other parts of Shoorveer functional. As you can probably tell from the tone of my sentence, they are not. The eight-episode Shoorveer — created by Samar Khan (Shaurya), written by Sagar Pandya (The Test Case), and directed by Kanishk Varma (Sanak) — displays no narrative urgency, is filled with clunky dialogue, and suffers from even clunkier direction.
Shoorveer is happy to propel the cult of military, not dissect or deconstruct it in any way. It's got aviators, “cool” personalities, and a rock soundtrack courtesy of Cargo composer Shezan Shaikh. That soundtrack drives the combat and spectacle, which is either unbelievable or unengaging. (Also, Shoorveer spends more time inside a bar-cum-café than it does on the battlefield.) Some of that is thanks to pedestrian action filmmaking — Pratik Deora (Sanak) is the cinematographer — that is never able to get your pulse racing.
The new Disney+ Hotstar series is ultimately so dysfunctional that your mind drifts and you start to question the foundation itself. Take Shoorveer's laughable premise for instance. In the wake of a terrorist attack and amid warnings of something bigger on the horizon, a new elite unit called the Hawks is formed. Excuse me, is the enemy hanging around so we can train the force that will stop them? Shoorveer claims there's too much red tape that leads to delays — and why we need a unit with a direct command. But in fact, such forces already exist. Case in point: the NSG. But the most laughable suggestion of Shoorveer is that Hawks will abandon all ranks. This feels absurd, because chain of command is central to how armed forces operate.
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After a terrorist group infiltrates a secure location and guns down civilians, officers, and a prized asset, the Prime Minister of India Chandrashekhar Pratap (Mohit Chauhan) asks some tough questions. National Security Advisor Milind Phanse (Makarand Deshpande) is ready with that aforementioned solution, claiming that the Hawks can be India's “first responders”. I think he may have confused the meaning of that term. In turn, Phanse commissions IAF Group Captain Ranjan Malik (Manish Chaudhari), who had advocated for such a force decades ago, to lead the Hawks. If I were to continue the Top Gun: Maverick analogy, Malik is essentially Tom Cruise's Maverick on Shoorveer — except his bravado and excellence is conveyed in dialogue, not shown in the air.
That said, Shoorveer is largely centred on the Hawks. In fact, the new Hotstar Specials series begins with an Air Force candidate in Viraj Sehgal (Armaan Ralhan). And as Malik assembles his team, we are introduced to the others: Avantika Rao (Regina Cassandra), Salim Kamali (Aadil Khan) and Manju Thapliyal (Anjali Barot) also of the Air Force, Shome Banerjee (Abhishek Saha) and Pirozshah “Perry” Mehta (Sahil Mehta) of the Army, and some non-descript Navy faces. Sehgal and Kamali are rivals from academy days, while Thapliyal looks up to Rao for what she's done in the cockpit.
As you can tell, not a single naval officer is part of the lead cast. Shoorveer spotlights only those whose skills can be showcased during training — though even in a naval training module, it's someone from the air force who emerges as the winner. In a way, Shoorveer is going against what it stands for. Why bring together the best of the best from Army, Navy, and Air Force when there seems to be no use for naval talents?
Speaking of training, if you're trying to push the crème de la crème, you need to test their limits. But Shoorveer has neither spirit nor creativity. Take the aforementioned Top Gun: Maverick for example, which threw its lot into an absurd but crazy mission, one that required taking on seemingly impossible drills. In contrast, Shoorveer seems to be just filling up time — until it can arrive on the final mission — an outcome of the fact that its ramshackle script has no direction, no focus, and no energy.
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The Hawks in Shoorveer
Photo Credit: Disney+ Hotstar
For one, Shoorveer lands on the most familiar of enemies: Pakistan. Mild plot spoilers follow. As an ousted Inter-Services Intelligence officer General Riaz (Arif Zakaria) plots his comeback to the throne, he activates sleeper agent Siddesh Vakharia (Faisal Rashid) — who's embedded himself into India's intelligence community — to bring a major attack to fruition. But not only does the big-picture story crawl at a snail pace and fail to be convincing, it doesn't share tonal consistency and narrative momentum with the Hawks-in-training. As a result, Shoorveer is all over the place.
Pandya's scripts also feature Screenwriting 101 mistakes. Repeatedly, character A will tell character B about character B's achievements or personal life, in what is a clear-as-day attempt to convey those details to the audience. These mistakes, present more so in the early Shoorveer episodes, give way to scenes that fail to grab your interest. This is a result of poor direction too, evident also in how Varma fails to get the same out of Cassandra whose performance was more honest on Rocket Boys. Deshpande's Milind and Chaudhari's Ranjan feel too one note, Khan is pulled between showing a fatherly side and boasting in front of Viraj, and it's only Ralhan who feels out of depth in what's asked of him.
On top of all that, Shoorveer pays little attention to detail — be it in the military manoeuvres or the props that make it to screen. For instance, in the opening 20 minutes, after Milind presents his “detailed” Hawks plan, the Indian PM casually ruffles through it. The document betrays how crudely it's been put together. Not only is it a word-to-word copy-paste of a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, it lifts from a document that's about China not India. Except the word “China” has been replaced by “India” in each sentence. As you might expect from a decision so silly, there's no proof reading done, with mentions of the PLA — the Chinese army — still in place. ????♀️
To me, that's a sign of what's wrong with the show. It signals the level of dedication that the makers bring to Shoorveer. One that results in a story with no real target. (It's not a chest-thumping show, thankfully, for the most part anyway.) A TV series with some of the most awful CGI I've ever seen. (The Shoorveer creator claimed they worked with Unreal Engine. If so, Shoorveer is an insult to Unreal's capabilities.) Shoorveer's biggest crime though is that it's just plain boring. Everyone involved behind the scenes has put in the bare minimum, and are more than happy to get that Disney money. The joke is on Hotstar though, for its brand is on — beyond? — the verge of becoming synonymous with these low-effort productions.
All eight episodes of Shoorveer are released Friday, July 15 at 12:30pm IST on Disney+ Hotstar in India and Hulu in the US.
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