Rajkummar Rao, Rajesh Tailang, Rupinder Nagra, Keval Arora, Timothy Ryan Hickernell, Kallirroi Tziafeta, Harmeet Singh Sawhney.
When a sensitive director chooses to make a film on a man who is synonymous with destruction, you don’t know if you will find yourself empathizing with a criminal or if you will fear him even more. Will knowing that he is still alive send a chill down your spine? The trailers of the film point to the fact that this one is not for everyone. Not everyone will be able to see this film objectively without wondering what is the filmmaker really trying to say. However, Hansal Mehta assumes the ‘code of silence’, and presents this movie as a dramatized documentary of what conspired and what transpired in the mind and heart of Omar Sheikh.
The film doesn’t really take us back to Omar (Rajkummar Rao)’s past. We know that he stays with his father, he is studying in London, he is an average Muslim who suddenly feels he doesn’t want to be an average man, is earning a living and doing his bidding in a world where people don’t value his kin. The turn in the life of Omar Sheikh comes with the attacks on Muslims in Bosnia. Of course, his immediate family isn’t affected, but Omar is. He no longer wants to wait for it to be his turn to get cudgelled. He would much rather be the one wielding the destruction. Throughout, Hansal doesn’t take any obvious stand for or against Omar. What we get instead is a moderately accurate version, completely emotionally detached, stating an account of Sheikh’s role in the 1994 abduction of Western tourists in India. It then moves into his release from the Indian prison in exchange for hostages in the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 held in Kandahar. We silently watch his involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl (Timothy Ryan Hickernell), for which he was convicted and allegedly sentenced to death by a Pakistani court.
It is only in the Daniel Pearl portion that Hansal decides to take a stand and say that Omar did it. On the other hand, reports have suggested that some individuals claimed that Omar wasn’t the one to actually do the act. But in the eyes of the horror that we see Omar committing the act with such casual ease, it is hard to say that he didn’t behead Pearl.
So what is it that makes Omerta a must-see cinematic experience? It is the fact that without taking a stand, Hansal Mehta manages to make us cringe at how violent a man can be WITHOUT any provocation. There is absolutely nothing that personally happens to make Omar Sheikh the dreaded gangster that he makes himself into. This is what makes him so much more disturbing.
The fact that he could be any boy walking around in the marketplace beside you, engaging in small talk, bargaining alongside you, studying in your college with you is the scariest part. The fact that such a seemingly average person can actually be the mastermind behind mass murder without a flicker of remorse on his face makes Omar Sheikh the creepiest criminal.
Of course, Mukesh Chhabra’s casting is also impeccable. To think that they wanted Riz Ahmed to play the part of Omar Sheikh seems unthinkable, simply because Rajkummar Rao has made himself indispensable from Omar. It is Rajkummar Rao that makes Omar Sheikh the deadliest criminal that we have seen on screen but he has had a lot of good help in the form of the DOP Anuj Dhawan (Dhawan is Mehta’s favourite, who has worked on Simran as well).
Dhawan manages to create an ambiance that makes Rao flourish in his act as Omar, making Omerta crawl right under your skin. Kudos to actor Mukul Dev to have thought of giving this character a cinematic journey to begin with.