Hotstar’s new original series Shoorveer looked like the latest in a long series of web shows and films that have been made on the Indian armed forces in recent years. From Uri to Avrodh, there is no dearth of such shows. Thankfully though, Shoorveer is different, and mostly in good ways. For one, it is largely about the Air Force and hence, much of the action takes place in the air. Despite the limited budget, Shoorveer does a great job with visual effects and aerial dogfight sequences at a scale never before seen on Indian television or streaming scene. Yet, the show isn’t great in itself, hurt by a loose and predictable plot. Also read: Avrodh 2 review: Series is a sarkari PSA, sasti copy of Uri, Special Ops
Shoorveer is the story of how the Indian government forms the Hawks, a joint task force of Army, Air Force, and Navy–to serve as the first responders in case of a serious threat. We meet the men behind this idea–Group Captain Ranjan Malik (Manish Chaudhari) and the National Security Advisor, played by Makarand Deshpande. And we also meet the Hawks themselves, the best soldiers from across the country–an ensemble cast including Armaan Ralhan, Regina Cassandra, Aadil Khan, and Anjali Barot among others. They must iron out the differences between themselves and learn to work as a team to defeat the enemy–a former Pakistan general (Arif Zakaria) hell-bent on destroying India.
In many ways, Shoorveer is like Top Gun, although the comparison is unfair to the show. It is probably made on a budget that is 5% of the Tom Cruise film. But thematically and visually, the similarities exist. Both involve young officers trying to learn to be a team and some aerial action. Word of advice, if you have recently watched Top Gun: Maverick, don’t bother comparing the dogfights from it with Shoorveer’s action. But when viewed in isolation, it is stunning. There have been very few shows on the air force in India. Saara Aakash and Chhoona Hai Aasmaan come to mind. But both those shows stand nowhere in front of the slick action depicted in Shoorveer. The dogfights look real enough to suspend disbelief. Even the ground action is well choreographed and does not look amateurish. This is the greatest victory of the show.
But the problem lies in the story. When there is no action to distract you, Shoorveer follows the same tropes that shows and films in this genre have in the recent past. No need to go too far back. Avrodh 2 was a bland copy of Uri and minus the visual effects and dogfights, Shoorveer is no different. The villains are cliched, the heroes are stereotypical, and the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese.
The acting does offer some respite from the blandness and plainness of the plot, but only partially. The veterans–Manish and Makarand–are sublime and pretty much carry the show on their shoulders. They ease into their roles effortlessly. Even Arif Zakaria as the villain is a delight to watch even though his role is unidimensional. But the Hawks are the weak links, and not for any fault of their own. The actors have been given very little to work with. Seeing talent like Regina Cassandra being wasted is a shame. A better story and more fleshed-out characters would probably have challenged these actors to bring in their A-game. As things stand, they appear inhibited, almost restricted in their performances.
Shoorveer is a fun watch, largely because it is a brave, new step for Indian streaming platforms. It delivers slick action and high production values in an Indian show, something we haven’t been used to. But I just wish that hadn’t happened at the expense of the plot and writing. Shoorveer, in short, is a delicious-looking pizza with all the best toppings, such as VFX, action choreography, research, music, and cinematography. Sadly, the pizza base is still raw and inedible. You can try eating it but it won’t be as much fun as it could have been.
Creator: Samar Khan
Cast: Armaan Ralhan, Regina Cassandra, Makarand Deshpande, Manish Chaudhari, Aadil Khan, Anjali Barot, Abhishek Saha, and Arif Zakaria.