Operation Valentine Movie Review: A note of caution to all filmmakers: if you want to make recruitment propaganda for the military, make sure you do not show the hero as the rule-breaker who gets the last hoorah by doing so. Not the right idea you want to fit into the heads of youngsters, even if it was made enticing by Tom Cruise in his Top Gun movies. Now that I said it let's get to Operation Valentine, the new war drama made by Shakti Pratap Singh Hada, starring Varun Tej and Manushi Chhillar in the lead. Operation Valentine Movie: Review, Cast, Plot, Trailer, Release Date – All You Need To Know About Varun Tej and Manushi Chhillar’s Film!

Operation Valentine vs Fighter

Now I heard that Operation Valentine, a bilingual made in Telugu and Hindi, is touted to be the first film made in the Telugu industry that deals with IAF pilots in action. Unfortunately, it is also the second high-profile aerial action drama to come to Indian cinema this year after Siddharth Anand's Fighter. The similarity is not just restricted to the genre. Both films are based on the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack and also deal with Indian retaliation after the attack. Both films have heroes who are daredevil order-ignorers who also harbour a tragic guilt over losing a loved one, for which they blame themselves (while others keep reminding them of that). And yes, there is also a half-baked love story that pales significantly when the MIGs take to the air.

Watch the Trailer of Operation Valentine:

While Fighter tries to balance a pro-war film with a coming-of-age drama, Operation Valentine is not concerned with such nitty-gritty. So we have Arjun (Varun Tej) here, codenamed 'Rudra, ' a test pilot based in Gwalior. He was once part of a test operation called 'Vayu', which turned out to be a disaster that ended up killing his co-pilot and friend. His fiancee, Aahana (Manushi Chhillar), also an IAF pilot, seems annoyed with him for putting his life at risk, and she evidently shows that when, a year later, her commander transfers her to Gwalior to be the project lead there.

A Still From Operation Valentine

No worries, though, since all is well between these two once she reaches there. So let's ignore why she felt shocked upon hearing that she would have to lead him in her next mission, as their romance was re-established within minutes. Arjun, however, continues to put his life at risk at several opportunities, annoying Aahana and his new CO (Sampath Raj).

A Still From Operation Valentine

However, after the Pulwama attack, Arjun is tasked to put his daredevilry on display as India mounts a retaliatory attack on the Pakistani bases. So what was all that brouhaha about him not following orders then?

The Weak Drama

Operation Valentine makes it clear from frame one that its aimed USP is the aerial action with plenty of patriotism doused in anti-Pakistan sentiment (is there any other kind of patriotism in films these days?). Everything else is merely there to fill in the gaps, including any semblance of character development. The second half is completely action-based (the title card is aptly revealed around the interval mark) when Arjun's squad carries out an attack on a Pakistani base and later has to defend a prime territory from being attacked by their jets.

A Still From Operation Valentine

The first half, however, moves along at a lethargic pace with a romance that is only there, because it is perfunctory and is used to bring a forced tension to the drama. The hero being haunted by a guilt is a trope that these movies have exploited quite a bit, and Operation Valentine doesn't do anything new to the idea. Aahana's character is simply confusing, in one scene, she is anguished with Arjun, and in the next, she is all lovey-dovey, but there was no scene where we get to see her help him deal with the trauma of losing a friend in a tragic accident, except to keep reminding him for being responsible for that accident.

The Performances

There are other characters, like the one played by Paresh Pahuja and Ruhani Sharma, who play fellow IAF pilots. Pahuja's character is the one who is given all the bad wisecracks, and Sharma's hardly there. Even Sampath Raj is wasted. As for the lead, Varun Tej looks the part of the dashing officer, but his performance is nothing to crow about. He is decent in some scenes, but when things become too emotional, the heft is missing from his performance. The pretty Manushi Chhillar does what she can with a role that mostly requires her to shout orders from a control room or berate the hero for not following orders. The villains, as always, are cardboard caricatures.

(Not So) Maverick

The second half is more action-packed, shorter in comparison, and is definitely an improvement over the haggard first half. You can see there is an effort in designing some of the dogfight sequences, but that's not enough to make these scenes work. Ideally, the fighter jet sequences should have pulled us to the edge of our seats, but that doesn't happen here since the scenes are not backed by the technical finesse needed to make them look authentic enough. The VFX is mostly a mixed bag; in some scenes, the action looks decent, but in others, the portions have a video game feel. The editing also feels a letdown in several places, not allowing to bring a sense of coherence to where a certain set of characters are supposed to be.

A Still From Operation Valentine

PS: I saw this film in Telugu, and therefore have this one more gripe - if you are making everyone in the film, from North Indians to Pakistanis - all speak in Telugu for the audience's sake, then why have them utter a few splatterings of Hindi and Urdu in between? What kind of sense does that make?

Also, just like the starting para, I want to make another note to all filmmakers - if your film involves a character poking fun at tropes of other movies of the same genre, then make sure you do NOT make the same mistakes here too.

Final Thoughts on Operation Valentine

In Operation Valentine, patriotism takes the flight to the high skies, but the efforts to pull off a good-looking, well-engaging war drama skid on the runway itself. With some underwhelming drama written around real-life incidents, thinly sketched characters and action scenes that feel more like a mixed bag, Operation Valentine feels like an opportunity gone awry in trying to do something different in the action genre for the Telugu Film Industry.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 01, 2024 02:15 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).