Operation Valentine review: Varun Tej’s film doesn’t soar but is watchable - Hindustan Times
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Operation Valentine review: Varun Tej’s film doesn’t soar but is watchable

ByNeeshita Nyayapati
Mar 01, 2024 02:55 PM IST

Operation Valentine review: Shakti Pratap Singh Hada’s Varun Tej and Manushi Chhillar-starrer leaves so much to be desired.

Operation Valentine review: Tom Cruise has forever ruined the aerial action genre for everyone. There, I said it! Anything that remotely features a shot of a fighter plane, let alone a whole film based on the Air Force, has the 1986 film Top Gun (and its sequel) to live up to. So when Shakti Pratap Singh attempts an aerial action film with Operation Valentine, starring Varun Tej and Manushi Chhillar, you can’t help but wonder if they could’ve done more. (Also Read: Varun Tej Operation Valentine interview: On what he learnt from IAF officers and more)

Operation Valentine review: Varun Tej plays an IAF officer in this aerial action film
Operation Valentine review: Varun Tej plays an IAF officer in this aerial action film

Operation Valentine story

Arjun Dev aka Rudra (Varun) is a skilled test pilot with the Indian Air Force who (you guessed it) finds it hard to follow commands. His wife, radar officer Aahana Gill (Manushi) tries to reel him in but even a tragedy won’t change his ways. He’s trying to devise a method, Project Vajra, where pilots can fly under the radar but a terrorist attack in Srinagar threatens to accelerate his plans at the cost of his safety.

Operation Valentine review

Operation Valentine is refreshing, in that there’s no excessive jingoism, too much hero worship or demonising anyone in the name of drama. But that also means that when the film presents you with a mature, balanced narrative, it doesn’t exactly give you the kind of over-the-top high moments you’ve come to expect from Telugu cinema. The film doesn’t try too hard to impress the audience or bank on prevailing sentiments, which works in its favour. But it lacks the emotional heft needed to keep you engaged.

Pulwama attack and Balakot airstrikes

While the film makes it clear who the enemies are - the extremists - it never vilifies them for the choices they make, nor does it glorify the Indians too much for retaliating. Sure, the film lets go of that balance when a fictional Prime Minister is given a major chunk of the credit for IAF’s hard work, but I digress. The Pulwama attack, accompanied by the song Annee Nuvve Ammaku, does attempt to play on your emotions, but it's mostly matter-of-fact by the time the Balakot airstrikes roll around.

The lead actors

Varun and Manushi were clearly brought on-board not just for their acting skills but because of the way they look, too. The actors make for a fetching pair in their uniforms and while their chemistry doesn’t always set the screen on fire, you understand Aahana’s frustration with Arjun. They also get the body language right. The actors don’t really get the scope to perform for the most part but they manage to get across the emotions well when needed. Paresh Ahuja plays Yash Sharma with a swagger but it’s off-putting when him or Manushi do not get their lip sync right. This is an issue a lot of the other actors, including Ruhani Sharma, who don’t speak Telugu are riddled with too.

The characters of Operation Valentine
The characters of Operation Valentine

The highs and lows

On one hand, it’s novel for Telugu cinema to attempt combat sequences like the kind Operation Valentine pulls off. On the other, the subpar VFX in key parts holds you back from the immersive experience you were promised. The action sequences could've been much smoother when a major chunk of the film involves these pilots fighting for the country. Mickey J Meyer delivers an effective soundtrack and Hari K Vedantam’s cinematography also works well for the film. Some of Sai Madhav Burra’s dialogues could’ve done with more punch.

In conclusion

Operation Valentine is respectful to the Indian Air Force and plays it safe for the most part. The non-linear narrative takes its own sweet time to set things up, but when it does, the going is smoother. The VFX needed to be much better for this film to work the way it's intended. Shakti should’ve also taken a little more time to set up his characters, which would help us connect with them better. Either way, Operation Valentine is watchable.

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