Mumbai, 16 Feb 2018 10:15 IST
The film had the potential to be an engaging espionage caper, but sadly, director Neeraj Pandey did not have the right tricks up his sleeve.
Corrupt politicians, policemen make for convenient villains on celluloid as they seldom raise objections against it. The Indian army though enjoys a great image. Army men are highly respected and considered incorruptible, infallible and any attempts to question the army on the big screen runs the risks of you being labelled a traitor.
Vishal Bhardwaj was much maligned for Haider (2014). So, when word spread that Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary was, perhaps, based on the infamous Adarsh scam in 2010, the defence ministry and the Indian army thought it best to vet the film before it was opened for public viewing.
Pandey’s Aiyaary doesn’t dent the Indian army or defence ministry’s pride but questions the murky arms deals, the kickbacks and how the arms lobby resorts to bullying.
We have a retired army officer, Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra), who is now working as the front man for international arms dealer and former Indian army man Mukesh Kapoor (Adil Hussain).
Singh's attempt at bribing the chief of army staff, general Pratap Malik (Vikram Gokhale), to award an arms deal to his boss results in disappointment. Singh threatens to expose general Malik’s covert-op team, led by Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), that is secretly run on the tax-payer’s money.
Abhay's covert-op team is given the task of wiping out all evidence in Gurinder's custody and of ensuring the trucks deal is not awarded to Kapoor’s Arms Inc. However, Abhay also needs to deal with a renegade, Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra). Bakshi is not alone for he is aided by tech-geek Sonia Gupta (Rakul Preet Singh), who can apparently hack into any system. Abhay has never spared rogues and he is gunning for Bakshi’s head.
Aiyaary, meaning ultimate trickery, makes for an intriguing title indeed, but what tricks does the director display?
The film had the potential to be an engaging espionage caper, but sadly, Pandey did not have the right tricks up his sleeve.
Poor direction, abysmal screenplay shoot down Aiyaary. The film does have a promising plot, but it seems the director just forgot the art of storytelling.
The screenplay is boring, lacks drama and could be categorized the classic case of bad writing. Pandey's earlier works – Special 26 (2012), Baby (2015), MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) — had an engaging storyline. The Neeraj Pandey template consists of an endearing tale, encapsulating but not over-the-top drama, few fine performances, and a rollicking background score. However, the director has broken this trend here.
Dull drama, lacklustre performances, and the repetitive background score ails the film. When there’s no meat in your screenplay, how will an intense background score keep the audience engaged to the film?
Surprisingly, the one who disappoints the most is the usually reliable performer — Manoj Bajpayee. He plays a colonel in body, but not in soul. The intensity which Bajpayee showed as a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) officer in Special 26 is missing in the military uniform of Aiyaary.
Perhaps, Bajpayee tried too hard to play a diligent, modern officer. His attempts to be this cool colonel muttering flaky English lines fall flat on his face. The director too is to be blamed here. We see Bajpayee on-screen when he meets with Mukesh Kapoor in London and during the odd banter with his wife (played by Juhi Babbar). To conclude, Bajpayee looks a pale shadow of himself in Aiyaary.
Sidharth Malhotra might be a heart-throb, but as an actor he is far from convincing. Perhaps, Pandey realised his actor’s limitations and modelled Jai Bakshi as a restrained character, letting his actions do all the talking. Malhotra, though, is simply unbearable. He lacks intensity and looks fake. The only time Sidharth looks convincing is when he disguises as a blonde while taking a flight to London.
Abhay Singh finally manages to get his hands on Bakshi, who for all his one-man army claims, goes soft when confronted. This is an espionage caper. Maybe army intelligence officers don’t fight like the James Bonds or the Jason Bournes, but Pandey sure could have got out some decent action from Malhotra. Perhaps, that would have enabled the actor to earn some brownie points, for he scores a nought with his insipid act.
Popular Telegu film actress Rakul Preet Singh makes an unsuccessful return to Hindi films (she was earlier seen in Divya Khosla Kumar's Yaariyan in 2014), failing to create any impact with her performance. For a woman who is an IT whizkid, Sonia literally does nothing except for making few calls. Her mushy crush on Jai is archaic. With the lady doing nothing significant in the film, you wonder if her character was really needed. Doing away with this character would have certainly helped in trimming the length of the film, which stands at a sleep inducing 160 minutes!
Seasoned actor Vikram Gokhale looks a bit too old and plump to play the army chief, but is not disappointing. General Malik, the creator of the covert-op team, is surprisingly unaware that Jai Bakshi has gone rogue.
Adil Hussain as Mukesh Kapoor looks pretentious. The character just doesn’t do justice to his talent.
The one man though who comes out unscathed is Kumud Mishra. The actor, who is a late bloomer, displays the requisite intensity, aggression throughout the film.
Naseeruddin Shah makes a small but important appearance. After all, he is Pandey’s ‘stupid common man’. Shah plays the guard who smells a rat in the illegal construction of a 31-floor housing apartment. However, the absurdity of this revelation will make you cringe.
Aiyaary is undoubtedly the most disappointing film in Neeraj Pandey's fimography. While he errs in his storytelling, Pandey is also guilty of bowing to the requests of the defence ministry to modify a few scenes.
In the climax, we see Baburao (Naseeruddin Shah) lament on how politicians and their stooges have time and again ruined this country. However, there is no mention of corrupt army personnel.
The film revolves around two former army men, Gurinder Singh and Mukesh Kapoor, bringing shame to the Indian army and the country, but the blame, as usual, rests on the politician's shoulders; the convenient villain. Sorry, Mr Pandey but you are not tricking any one with this Aiyaary.