The stars of Rashtra Kavach Om are hoping fans will come to see the Bollywood film for its all-guns-blazing action but stay for its emotional storyline.
"We’ve tried to make a complete film. While on the surface it seems like just an action film, I think people will be pleasantly surprised to find an emotional film, with a relatable story and also some twists and turns that they might not see coming," its lead Aditya Roy Kapur tells The National, in Dubai.
Kapur, who was last seen in the 2020 black comedy Ludo, plays Om Rathod, a top soldier who loses both his memory and his father while on a mission. As he pieces together snippets from his past with the help of his colleague Kavya Sharma, played by Sanjana Sanghi, he uncovers a massive conspiracy and sets out on a journey of revenge to clear his father's name.
Rashtra kavach means "nation's shield" in Hindi.
"I got a taste of a bit of action in Malang, and I wanted to do more," Kapur, 36, says, referring to his 2020 thriller. "But this one is a whole other level. It's an action film through and through and a new challenge."
For his role, the actor, who's mostly known for his romantic roles, said he had to undergo a gruelling four-month training and transformation.
"It was intense, but fun. I learnt a lot," he says. "To bulk up for a role is one thing, but to get used to the grammar of action, that’s a whole different dance.
"But I enjoy these short bursts of intense experiences, and then I get to sit back and chill for a bit."
The most difficult part was to keep the muscles intact, he says.
"I bulked up but I also needed to be loose. I had to be able to do all kinds of stuff like jumping and kicking and rolling. That's a lot of cardio and you lose the muscle after all of that, so the struggle was maintaining that bulk while doing all the action scenes."
Casting Sanghi, who is best known for her role in the 2020 romantic film Dil Bechara — the Bollywood adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars — was deliberate, says director Kapil Verma.
"We wanted a fresh face in the role, someone different, as Kavya is a surprise element in the film," he says. "And we wanted someone who has not done this kind of film before."
Sanghi, 25, says she relished playing the role and the opportunity to throw a few punches.
"Saying no didn’t even cross my mind," she says. "Sometimes you hear a narration and you love it, then you get to know who’s making it, who’s in it... it just all fell into place.
"Our film is about Om, but it’s also about relationships and Kavya is an important part of it. I just loved how the writers elaborated her character and fleshed it out.
"As a young actor [and] to get to do something so different so early in your career, I wasn’t going to let it go. So I jumped right in."
Shooting during the thick of the pandemic in 2021 brought its own set of challenges, director Verma says.
"We had a lot of restrictions and went from a 200-member crew to just 50," he says. "But we took a lot of precautions at every step and made it through without any problems.
"The funny thing is, after shooting in and around Mumbai, we went to Armenia for a two-week shoot, and all of us caught Covid."
"That was not ideal," Kapur chimes in, with a laugh.
"Making a film during the pandemic is very, very challenging," Sanghi says.
But all three are confident they've made a true entertainer that they hope will have audiences flocking to the cinemas.
"It’s a visual spectacle and it’s totally unpredictable. I hope people will like it," Sanghi says.
For Verma, it's the story all the way.
"We have a very strong family drama, relations between a father and son and a great relationship between Om and Kavya," he says. "All the action and the songs are just the icing on the cake."
Rashtra Kavach Om is out in cinemas on July 1