Patriotism has been the first and last refuge of director Anil Sharma for years, giving him the perfect excuse to assail the sensibilities of viewers in movie after movie. In Genius, the hyper-nationalist filmmaker gift-wraps his son, Utkarsh, in the Indian tricolour for a film that is about as amateurish as it is preposterous.

In its attempt to give its leading man a dream debut, the convoluted plot stretches itself in all directions. Utkarsh Sharma’s Vasudev is equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Ethan Hunt and the god Krishna (his standard greeting is “Radhe Radhe”). Vasudev might look a few years shy of graduation, but he happens to be one of the brightest sparks at the Research and Analysis Wing. Hacking, heavy combat, intelligence gathering – it comes very easily to Vasudev, leaving his RAW superiors to stand around in slack-jawed amazement.

When the deeply patriotic Vasudev, who combines traditional Indian values with cutting-edge scientific knowhow, nearly kills himself trying to set right a flag that has been wrongly displayed, nobody is surprised.

Apart from being a first-class agent and patriot, Vasudev is also irresistible to women (“Look how hot he is,” one woman pants). Vasudev’s college mate, Nandini (Ishita Chauhan), initially swats away his ardour¸ but that’s only because she is competitive and self-centred and does not understand the meaning of consent. After enduring some egregious taming-of-the-shrew treatment, including having her graduation paper solved by Vasudev, Nandini takes her place in the queue of admirers lined up outside Vasudev’s door, waiting for a darshan of his brilliance.

Some competition is offered by the Islamist terrorist MRS (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an Indian working in tandem with the Pakistani secret service to plant bombs and cause generalised mayhem in India. MRS spells out to Mr. Samar Khan, so it really should have been MSK. For all the supposed cerebral calisthenics on display, this is one crease that remains unironed.

Vasudev has sworn revenge against MRS for having killed his team-mates, but he is saddled by a tinnitus problem and disbelief from his RAW superiors. Vasudev’s inevitable victory comes at the end of 164 minutes, each of which will be acutely felt by viewers inured against manipulation and bad taste.

There is nothing that young Utkarsh Sharma cannot do in Genius, except, perhaps, prove his credentials as a leading man. The movie is tailor-made to exaggerate every single aspect of Sharma’s screen persona, with numerous scenes underlining his dexterity with dialogue delivery, dance, action, humour and resourcefulness. But it is hard to share a father’s love for his son, or ignore the tacky computer graphics, basement-level production values, pedestrian writing, and jingoistic blather. Even the always reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui looks bored and uninvolved, delivering his lines as though he were reading food labels and waiting, like the rest of us, for a release from the relentless indulgence.

Genius (2018).