Aiyaary Review

Featuring Manoj Bajpayee (left) and Sidharth Malhotra (right), “Aiyaary” is an intelligent tale that is less related to an enemy power than to renegades and traitors in the Army. (Sidharth Malhotra/Twitter photo)

Friday FilmWorks, Plan C Studios, Reliance Entertainment, Motion Picture Capital and Pen India present “Aiyaary”

Produced by: Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada & Akshay Jayantilal Gada

Written and directed by: Neeraj Pandey

Music: Rochak Kohli & Ankit Tiwari

Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Sidharth Malhotra, Rakul Preet Singh, Pooja Chopra, Vikram Gokhale, Naseeruddin Shah, Adil Hussein, Kumud Mishra, Rajesh Tailang, Juhi Babbar, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Patrick Clarke, Sp. App.: Anupam Kher & others

At the base is an intelligent tale that is less related to an enemy power than to renegades and traitors in the Army, but Neeraj Pandey, instead of sticking to the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) principle, resorts to a kind of KICK (Keep it complicated and clever) principle that may just about alienate the masses.

Given the gifted director’s high caliber, it is always mysterious why his debut film “A Wednesday!” was a masterpiece in brevity (at under 100 minutes a decade ago) but his last three films, “Baby,” “M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story” and this one are unduly long in the era of shorter cinema! If things have to be complicated, there should be succinctness in the narration, and given the contents of the film, it was not only possible but also would have made it exciting if this had happened.

As things stand, even the editor (Praveen Kathikuloth) does not do much, or cannot. The noodle sequence is just one of several examples that drag, and when we wait for so long, it is expected that there will be a twist, but there isn’t. Two or three more sequences, at least, share this quality, like the car puncture sequence. The only twist comes in the first slow chase in Cairo, but that sequence seems a straight reprise of a better-written similar “chase” in Pandey’s “Naam Shabana.

The ease at which Sonia “(Rakul Preet Singh) hacks into anything, phones of Army officers are tapped, or how Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra) comes to know about Baburao Shastri (Naseeruddin Shah) could have been depicted more convincingly, or better explained, but are not. Tariq Ali (Anupam Kher) is another character who is almost unbelievable, and Adil Hussein as a retired Indian army man and now an arms dealer operating with impunity from London are two other characters that should have concisely but convincingly rounded.

Some threads as connectors also remain hazy. Why does Captain Maya (Pooja Chopra) mention the house with the sick dog when she does? How is a clean-shaven Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) sitting with his protégé Jai and suddenly shown in Cairo with a sleek French beard? How does such a gifted soldier, with 18 out of 18 successful missions, never bothered about cars following his, and how come the clumsy followers never think of his caliber when they go so brazenly in pursuit?

Pandey’s dialogues are too realistic to deliver great punches, and as a screenplay writer and director, he dots the “i”s and crosses the “t”’s too much while trying paradoxically to give a stylized and international thriller. More importantly, he uncharacteristically misses explaining some things he should.

The background music (Sanjoy Chowdhury) is routine but creates the right mood, though its excessive presence in a predictable mode could have been avoided. The camerawork (Sudhir Palsane) scores high. The only song that is heard, “Le Dooba” is alright.

Pandey has an extraordinary ensemble cast, but almost all are just their efficient selves without being extraordinary. Manoj Bajpayee as Abhay has the meatiest role, the strongest and longest presence and is impressive for his no-nonsense character. Sidharth is largely convincing, and Kumud Mishra as Gurinder impresses. Juhi Babbar as Bajpayee’s wife and Pooja Chopra as Captain Maya have nothing to do.

Pandey fans will like this intelligent thriller (despite the gaffes mentioned) and so will thriller buffs. But we wish that the film had been a lot simpler (a notorious scam takes center-stage when the real issues are also other forms of corruption in the armed forces) and crisper. Despite the flaws, I liked the film, but despite liking the film, the flaws stood out!

Rating: ***

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