Omerta: A chilling testimony to the immediacy of terrorism

When a filmmaker takes on the responsibility of telling the story of one of the most notorious terrorists in the world, there is always the risk of humanising the mass murderer, underlining his barbarism with a cultural/religious rationale. While that may perhaps be logical to the perpetrator of the violence, it is nonetheless a rationale to be considered.
In Omerta, as Hansal Mehta tells the horrific intensely malevolent story of the violence committed by Omar Sheikh (played with chilling transparency by Rajkummar Rao), what emerges is a man who believes violence can set the world’s awry values right again. Not that Omar hopes to achieve that moral and political equilibrium during his lifetime. But no harm in trying, is there?
This tightly-edited nerve-wracking tale of self-righteous butchery opens with a deviously planned kidnapping of a group of foreigners in Delhi, and ends with the beheading of Daniel Pearl (Timothy Ryan Hickernell) in the dead of the night when the blood-curdling sound of a throat being slit by a blunt knife pierces the stillness.

To the life and goals of a man who wants to change the world with his vigorously violent methods, Rajkummar Rao brings a smirking serenity, an imperturbable certainty to every (violent) action manned by a core of truth obtainable only to those who believe they are among the Chosen Ones.

Every bit-part of a terrorist, cop, tourist or mullah is played by people who seem to have walked in from their real habitat to be part of a group discussion on their beliefs.Regrettably, Hansal Mehta and Rao do not allow us to penetrate the protagonist’s consciousness beyond a  point. We only know as much about Omar Shiekh as he and his Creator (not Hansal Mehta) want us to. This, in a way, is a desirable path to follow for us, the mute spectators. .

Omerta is not an easy film to watch. It cuts the protagonist’s movements down to size in episodic chunks and then repeats the vivid moments into scenes of colour-blinded documentation. There is a moment when Omar, pretending to be an ordinary tourist in Delhi, named Rohit, is accosted by an aggressive cop on the road who tells him bluntly that he looks like a Muslim.
Who said life after Osama bin Laden would be easy? Omerta makes it no easier.        --- Subhash Jha for IANS