Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Shifting shapeA still from Aiyaary.
Movie Review: Aiyaary

Shifting shape

16 Feb 2018 | 6:06 PM

Film: Aiyaary

Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Sidharth Malhotra, Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Vikram Gokhale, Kumud Mishra, Rakul Preet Singh, Pooja Chopra

Director: Neeraj Pandey

[ + read story ]

Nonika Singh

When in doubt, toss a coin and while it’s coming down you know exactly what you want. Around this homespun wisdom, the Army intelligence officer takes the call of duty. Ha ha, not bad per se…. but did Neeraj Pandey really know what he wanted? Well, in the answer to this dilemma lies the rub.

Indeed, he is confused and befuddles us too. Did he want to offer an exposé or salute the armed forces… did he care to shock us out of our stupor or simply tease our senses at the surface level? No doubt he has in the recent past emerged as the master of thrillers and does know this genre pretty well.

Even though he walks the familiar ground, here he does manage to intrigue us at least for a while as much with the title of the film as his slick treatment.

Rampant corruption, arms deals, bungling in corridors of power; what about this is not in public domain? Despite a massive disclaimer in the beginning, Neeraj does draw from real life incidents that contemporary history has been witness to. Trust the director to weave a thriller around the same with a fair degree of curiosity, interest and flair with which he has strung his previous taut thrillers such as Special 26, Baby and A Wednesday.

With gifted actors such as Manoj Bajpayee in command, his task is made easier as he goes on to build the conflict between its lead players who take opposing sides in the game of patriotism. The plot goes back and forth to dovetail the operation of the covert intelligence team and introduces you to the conflagration between Major Jai Bakshi(Sidharth Malhotra) and Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee).

You play along with their cat and mouse game even though quite a bit seems contrived. The flashback moments appear no more than a ploy to justify the title Aiyaary which by the way means shape shifters and add weight (and shapes) to his lead actors.

Still the movie holds your attention, if not exactly a cliff hanger, that would keep you on the edge of your seats. Alas, there comes the final denouement. The Adarsh scam or let’s say its look-alike unfolds in a rather dramatic fashion. Only it stands out like a sore thumb in a story essentially about arms wheeler-dealers.

Even veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah (great suspense is built around his character holed up in a hotel room) can’t put life into the seemingly bizarre turn of events. The dog and horse story that he recounts with much glee, meant to elicit mirth, falls flat. Even the other veteran and one of Neeraj’s favourites, Anupam Kher, is wasted. Kumud Mishra as the retired corrupt Army officer stands his ground with a nuanced portrayal.

Where Pandey scores is that he cuts the melodrama. There is no jingoism or attempt to whip up overt patriotism. Yet, all the while as the film tries to expose corruption in defence deals, he doesn’t forget the all prevailing Jai Jawan sentiment of the country.

All very well, brave Army officers need to be lauded. But, only if he had tried to resolve the conflict by some other measure rather than throw the housing fraud in the face, this like his previous outings would have been memorable. As it exists it is delectable only in bits and parts.

Should you too flip the coin…well between to watch or not, our vote ticks the watchable box. But this is no un-missable fare.

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