Its the story of mission to capture India’s number one most wanted: Ibrahim Khan (Were the makers afraid Dawood was going to sue them for defamation? Actually it would be hilarious if he did an got caught doing that…. I digress)So we send a bunch of agents and start a proper thriller. All spy movies are about agents killing each other, or trying really hard to. The difference lies in whether you care about them, and for a Bollywood film the further test is whether you care beyond just for “patriotic” reasons. In this case, the agents are well fleshed out, human, and understandable, if not alway likeable. Irrfan is outstanding, but what else can ou expect. As a man taking hard decisions, you feel for the guy torn between different forms of loyalties. Huma Qureishi is under-utilised, but shows the depth of emotions she can portray. And Arjun Rampal plays, to my utter and complete surprise, a strong, silent type character. Thats his strength, in fact the more silent the better I say.
A thriller is only as good as its bad guy, though, and Rishi Kapoor is just fantastic as the bafoonish but evil target. The guy who has thwarted various agencies for so long that he mocks them even when ostensibly lost. The Pakistan establishment in the film is corrupt and disloyal to its servants. As bad as the Indian establishment in fact. Its a subtle thing, and I think deliberate, that depicts both countries as equally corrupt and cowardly, and urges the individual to rise above it.
Plans, which turn on human factors and acts of God, are not central, the planners, executioners and the innocent by standers are, and that makes the movie good. Shruti Hassan is passable as the Karachi prostitute, but Shriswara as Irrfan’s wife is outstanding. Her innocence and vulnerability make not only her character but also Irrfan’s dilemmas come alive. Another standout is Chandan Sanyal as the villain’s twisted, sadistic nephew.
He figures in the song Alvida which is for me a highlight of the film as a character walks through a crime scene and pieces together a story as if a part of it. Kudos to the director Nikhil Advani just for that. The music in general is good and takes the drama forward (Although I have to wonder how many versions of Damadam Mast Kalandar we need)
In the end this is not flawless, not by far, but its made with heart and brains. And for the love of cinema, lets promote that.