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Suspense Without Thrill
Oct 10, 2023 08:36 PM 476 Views
(Updated Oct 10, 2023 09:02 PM)

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When you hold somebody in great esteem who fails to fulfill your level of expectation you end up being sorely disappointed. That is what my feeling is after seeing Khufiya on Netflix, a Vishal Bhardwaj Film. It is written, directed and produced by him.


You watch a suspense thriller because of many factors - narrative, ingrigue, climax and denoement. In poetry as you have an aha moment, I guess in thrillers it can be called the flabbergasting point, where you feel completely zapped by the unknotting of the mystery or suspense or taken aback by a surprise twist anywhere in the pre-climactic or climactic moment. When nothing of that sort seems to be happening you keep on watching because its a film by one of your favourite Directors and you are kind of obliged to watch it till the end wishing some heavy weight revelation may be awaiting round the bend.


That is what kept me through this movie. I kept on thinking now what next? Though that'what next' was not accompanied by an adrenaline rush which is generally associated with nailbiting scripts.


Krishna Mehra or KM(Taboo) is an R&AW operative. She trains a Bangladeshi girl called Heena(nicknamed Octopus - Azmeri Haque Badhon) and plants her to collect intelligence on Bangladesh's Defence Minister, Brigadier Mirza(Shafat Figar). However, information is leaked and Octopus gets murdered ruthlessly by Mirza. KM is heartbroken because she was in love with Octopus.


KM's boss Jeev(Ashish Vidyarthi) suspects Ravi(Ali Fazal), one of the R&AW agents, as the mole because his income does not match his lavish lifestyle. Ravi's wife, Charu(Wamiqa Gabbi) is also in the radar of suspicion. KM is given the charge of catching Ravi red handed.


Although KM and her men are able to uncover how Ravi operates but they are unable to catch him as he and his mother(Navninder Behl) are helped out of the country by counter intelligence operatives for whom he has been working. Ravi takes his son away but his wife, who refuses to be a part of his seditious act, is left to die.


The next part of the movie is all about the estranged wife looking for Ravi as she wants her child back. After months of search, she is able to trace Ravi and her mother-in-law in South Dakota. However, she is on a double mission now - to take back her son and also act as an informer to R&AW. Again, she is trained and planted by KM in this dangerous game. At first, Ravi does not trust his wife but later finding her'clean' he comes to believe in her.


The film is said to be based on true event whereas it is adapted from Amar Bhushan's espionage novel, Escape To Nowhere. But somehow Khufia, being an espionage thriller, does not have that spark which can jolt the viewers upright or keep them on the edge of the seat. The first half where Jeev and KM are spying on Ravi still has pace but in the second half where the mother is looking for her lost son the script falls flat and loses its run.


There are too many glitches in the narrative. At the expense of being a spoiler, the lapses are:


KM and Jeev let Ravi keep on copying Top Secret documents day after day without catching him red handed in the office itself. Why?


If its only to know how and for whom he operates, they are not able to do much about it even after knowing the actual culprit except blame the Home Minister(Lalit Parimoo).


Focussing the spycam on Charu(Ravi's wife) when Ravi, her son and mother-in-law are away from home and her'weird' behaviour in their absence seems absolutely unnecessary not adding to the narrative in any way.


If it is only to create an interest in Taboo's heart for the girl its quite absurd.


Charu's long, intimate conversation with KM over mobile at night after being planted in Ravi's hideout in South Dakota seems kind of out of sync.


She throws caution to the wind, sits outside the house and chats away without keeping a track of the time or any eavesdropper. Even though both her husband and mother-in-law are sedated by her, it seems too much of a risk taken by her in the role of a mole.


The penultimate scene where Brigadier Mirza and CIA's Dr. David White(Alexx O'Neil) and his wife are invited to dinner at Ravi's house and the plan is to kill them by serving poisoned Mutton Rogan Josh is so unbelievably cooked up. The way Ravi, her mother and Charu behave even a demented soul will be able to smell conspiracy.


Ravi returns to India with a smiling face. Isn't it odd? After his acts of treason? What happen to Charu and her son?


KM grappling with her relationship with ex-husband(Atul Kulkarni) and her son is supposed to be a parallel narrative in the movie. But somehow it fails to evoke the desired emotiional quotient. As a viewer, I was neither empathetic nor un-empathetic to her personal issues. It simply failed to invoke the feelings or reactions it should have.


How KM is moved by Charu to at last confess her orientation or reason for divorce and her actual work profile to her son is a mystery. Ain't the Secret Service Operatives under oath not to disclose their identity even after they retire?


To summarize, a VB movie after such a long time was something super exciting to look forward to. I was disillusioned to note that the movie was made for a platform where content is considered of utmost importance. But even after having a plot which could have been more thrilling and gripping the cinematic adaptation achieved neither.


Again from a promising cast the performance was just mediocre. Taboo essayed through her role like a somnambulist. Ashish Vidyarthi seemed more shrewd a boss than the'legendary' operative over whom her aids kept on going gaga. Wamiqa Gabbi is turning out to be a darling of OTT movies and series. We saw her in Jubilee, Charlie Chopra and now in Khufiya. Undoubtedly, she has talent which can be so much better utilized. Better luck next time. Only Ali Fazal, as the hostile agent, was worth a watch notwithstanding his insistence on being a patriot and balderdash theory of facilitating U S of A in de-talibanizing Afghanisthan in favour of India.


Being a suspense thriller and murder mystery addict, khufia, according to me, required superior handling and keener direction. It seemed to be a story told lackadaisically just for time pass.


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