As the progeny of a serving Indian Army officer, I find myself in a strange predicament every time I watch a movie based on men (and women) in uniform - extremely judgemental on one hand, and yet harbouring a distinct soft spot for the movie on the other, coz fauj. Aiyaary, directed by Neeraj Pandey, he of the Baby
and A Wednesday
fame, is the kind of movie that had my dual emotions going into overdrive, but from the rating, you know which side eventually won out.
This Manoj Bajpai - Siddharth Malhotra starrer is a thriller about a certain Indian Army intelligence operative going rogue and... further details will be spoilers should you want to catch it in your local theatre or on Prime/Netflix when it eventually does get there. Because Aiyaary is quite the alright movie if you're willing to heed a couple of fair warnings first.
One, the movie is not a Baby, A Wednesday, a Special 26
or even an M S Dhoni
for that matter, all of which count amongst some of the director's finest work. It is quite possible that having a Neeraj Pandey tag attached to a movie automatically raises expectations of it and that's what works against Aiyaary.
Two, but it is still a Neeraj Pandey movie. You see flashes of the director's brilliance from his earlier films in parts of this one, but the source material itself is just terribly meh. You sit through the proceedings understanding but still highly incredulous about the rogue operative's motive because they just. aren't. that. convincing. The chap's supposedly a highly skilled covert operative from the leading intelligence establishment in the country, and all you can think of is, have they not heard of emotional intelligence tests to filter out such trainees to begin with?
Third, an A W F U L romance track. Why the Indian movie industry feels the need to introduce a love story into a thriller, we'll never know (actually we do, but that would take us right into spoiler territory). But if that wasn't sinful enough, there's even a lovey-dovey song that pops out at you from nowhere and hampers the pace of the movie only a gazillion times X. That Rakul in this movie can't act to save her life is another matter entirely.
The only redeemable aspect of the film then, and one that makes it immensely watchable, is Bajpai's performance. There's a reason we referred to this movie as a Manoj Bajpai - Siddharth Malhotra starrer earlier on, despite Malhotra receiving star billing, and this is that reason. As a viewer, you look forward to every scene Bajpai's in because you know he'll make it good, and boy, does he. It reminds you of his Shool days, and that if there is any actor who can walk away with accolades in a half-cooked movie, like K K Menon in Shaurya
, it is him.
The other actors in this stellar ensemble that boasts of some of the finest performers of our times - Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Kumud Mishra, Adil Hussain etc - too, put in great performances, and are a joy to behold, Shah in particular. Siddharth Malhotra, despite not having a body of work as diverse as those of his peers, puts in a decent performance as well, and has the whole body language and personality of a young Army officer down pat.
Long story short - with the actual movie stuck somewhere in the second, third and final acts of the movie, this is a film best suited to those that truly believe that patience is a virtue. But frankly speaking, if you have time for just one movie this weekend, let it be Black Panther
. Way more fun and absolutely worth your money.