Starring: Tabu, Ali Fazal, Wamiqa Gabbi, Azmeri Haque Badhon, Ashish Vidyarthi, Navnindra Behl, Alexx O’Nell
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
A film based on a pacy thriller, loosely inspired from true events in the history of Indian espionage, as captured in Amar Bhushan’s book ‘Escape to Nowhere’ is certainly a promising start. Add to that one of Hindi cinema’s most inventive and talented filmmakers in Vishal Bhardwaj and ‘Khufiya’ gets elevated onto many watchlists having dropped on Netflix recently.
Krishna Mehra, or KM for short (Tabu), is a dedicated spy with the Indian government’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) who is suffering from heartbreak at the loss of a loved one to a compromised undercover operation codenamed Octopus in Bangladesh. Disillusioned with her colleagues and the spy network at large, KM is on the verge of walking away from a lifetime of committed service when her boss Jeev (Vidyarthi) shares his suspicions of a mole within the RAW ranks with KM – one of his most trusted operatives.
What follows is Operation Brutus to catch the mole, Ravi Mohan (Fazal), red-handed as he brazenly photocopies copious amounts of confidential paperwork to pass on state secrets to an as-yet unknown enemy nation. KM is in charge of this elaborate operation, involving bugging Mohan’s office and eventually setting up spy cameras in his home. While his music and fun-loving wife Charu (Gabbi) seems oblivious to her husband’s double life, his elderly mother Lalita (Behl) displays some strange behaviour.
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With KM and her team hot on the heels of the traitor with 24/7 surveillance, will “Brutus” and his spy bosses be exposed before any more lives are lost? Or will Mohan clock on to the elaborate tail on him and escape justice?
The answer lies in a well-crafted spy thriller with many endearing touches associated with a Vishal Bhardwaj film, including some nifty use of music – in the form a haunting rendition of ‘Mat Ana’ by the inimitable Rekha Bhardwaj and some beloved numbers from 1970s Bollywood. After deploying shock and awe in the opening scene akin to Hollywood espionage dramas, there is not a single dip in the pace of this edgy production.
Of course, it is the sheer genius of Tabu as the central character that deserves a massive chunk of the credit for such an effortless performance as a committed professional in emotional turmoil. But she is ably backed up by some well-known and some lesser-known talent assembled to fit each character to a T.
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The outcome of this secretive mission is an extremely entertaining and captivating journey through the undercover world of greed and misplaced loyalties.