Aiyaary Review: Spy Thriller Gone Wrong
Remember the popular T.V series Chandrakanta by Nirja Guleri which was a rage back in the 90’s? Well among various things that the mega series came up with, in particular I liked the character of Kroor Singh (played wonderfully by Akhilendra Mishra) & his two henchmen or “aiyaars”. It is thanks to the series that I realized that aiyaars are shape or form shifters and that aiyaary refers to the skill of shape/form shifting. With Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary getting ready for release (and being moved around back and forth a bit) I was once again reminded of this nearly forgotten term. The promos of Aiyaary promised a tale of a spy who has gone rogue. Despite this not being the first ever film to feature such a premise I felt that given Neeraj Pandey’s track record, this could turn out to be good, especially if the title was justified as well.
Getting the benefit of a good release window we finally have Aiyaary in theatres now. But has it really turned out to be as expected? Does this follow in the lines of films like Baby and Naam Shabana (the latter being produced by Neeraj Pandey but directed by Shivam Nair)? And would the film continue to hold the attention of the audience in the wake of recent biggies like Padmaavat &Padman? Well I had all these questions and more on mind while I set off to watch Aiyaary on the first day of release. But the answers that I realized later unfortunately aren’t what I expected to come across. What makes me really feel let down? Well let me try and tell you all about the same after I dispense away with the formalities.
Army chief General Pratap Malik’s (Vikram Gokhale)pet project is a top secret undercover team of special army operatives, led by the sincere and level headed Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee). All hell breaks loose when retired army veteran Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra), now the front end for a large multinational arms dealer threatens to expose General Malik’s covert set up for having refused to accept a bribe to facilitate an arms deal. Around the same time Abhay Singh realizes that his protégé and the ever reliable Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra) has now gone rogue. Faced with the task of protecting the identity of team and to crack down upon Jai Bakshi, Abhay has no other go to take up the challenge. What happens from thereon is what the rest of the tale is all about.
The film suffers basically due to its poor writing and it’s a surprise that Neeraj Pandey could have come up with something that lacks credibility, a key factor to ensure success in a project like this. For a while the film appears to be a cat and mouse game of sorts between Abhay and Jai. Later the dynamics changes and by the time you are already exhausted we find a reference to the Adarsh Society scam of sorts, but in a way that does not affect you in any fashion. In the very first place the reason for Jai to have gone rogue appears to be very flimsy, especially when his peers and immediate superiors are clearly shown to be honest and disciplined. Also the film just goes and on (160 minutes of a boring narrative mind you), and the scenes depicting back stories to indicate mutual admiration between Abhay and Jai leave you smirking.
Yes the film has been mounted well, but it lacks the grandeur of films in the same domain, like say a Phantom or even Baby. Veteran actors like Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah are wasted, their presence not really adding any value as such. Rakul Preet Singh makes a re-entry to Hindi cinema (after Yaariyan) and gets visibility, but that’s about it. Among the rest of the cast, Adil Hussain, Kumud Mishra, Vikram Gokhale, Pooja Chopra all get noticed but do not leave an impact. Sidharth Malhotra tries hard but is certainly no match to the intensity and appeal carried off in similar roles by Akshay Kumar in Baby or even Taapsee Pannu in Naam Shabana. Eventually it is only the earnestness of Manoj Bajpayee which makes you sit through the movie.
Neither a taut spy thriller that it ought to have been, nor a good social commentary that it tries to project towards the fag end, Aiyaary is a lost cause all the way. It’s a film that even Manoj Bajpayee with his sincerity cannot save.