Director Neeraj Pandey‘s “Aiyaari“, which means ‘shape shifting’, is a cry of rage against the corrupt system that is prevailing in the government and armed forces. It is a simply told tale and is based on facts.
An astutely mounted and engaging suspense thriller, the film is told in Neeraj Pandey’s inimitable style of a cat and mouse chase between an army officer and his subordinate. The plot even ends in a chase: Not through the streets but through a labyrinth of facts, alibis and official corruption. And, despite the disclaimer offered at the beginning of the film, the truth can’t be camouflaged.
The narrative, in a non-linear manner, begins with informing us about two officers; Colonel Abhay Singh and Major Jai Bakshi, absconding from their line of duty in the Special Coveted Services, read ‘Intelligence Department’.
Then in a flashback, four days earlier, we are given to understand that Major Jai Bakshi, Colonel Abhay’s blue-eyed boy is on the run after siphoning off sensitive and classified data from his office. He is termed a traitor.
Hurt and feeling betrayed, Colonel Abhay Singh is after him to bring him to book. And through the chase we realise that Jai is leading us from an initial personal involvement to the indictment of the rot, trying to expose the military men and their nexus with the arms dealers, and the construction lobby, thereby refusing to co-exist within the corrupt system.
The events, which are skilfully intertwined, will awaken a patriotic nerve in you and will make you angry. It will tear your guts out, especially when you are constantly reminded, “Viraasat mein nayi peedi ke liye kya chod kar ja rahe hain'”, which literally means what are you leaving behind as your legacy for the next generation.
In this film, though one-dimensionally portrayed, the writing outshines the performances. Manoj Bajpayee, an exceptional actor, except for a few scenes including the one when he goes undercover as a vagabond, lacks lustre. As the fearless Colonel Abhay Singh who shoots people at point blank range, he is by and large mediocre and unimpressive.
Similarly, Sidharth Malhotra is perfunctory as Major Jai Bakshi. Though he propels the tale, he lacks the zing.
Kumud Mishra as the retired Lieutenant General Gurinder Singh has his moments of on-screen glory and he is effective. So is Adil Hussain as the arms dealer Mukesh Kapoor. Naseeruddin Shah is typically himself as Baburao Shastri, but his story and presence are an intriguing factor that makes you hold on for his appearance.
Rakul Preet Singh as Jai’s love interest Sonia and Pooja Chopra as Captain Maya and the character who plays Abhay’s wife are there to balance the otherwise totally male-oriented cast.
Shot in locales that include New Delhi, Kashmir, London, Cairo and Mumbai, the film has good production values and is technically well-crafted. The visuals and background score are of fine calibre and mesh well in the final flow.
With a run-time of two hours and forty minutes the film is a bit lengthy but nevertheless, that does not affect the overall viewing experience.
Film: “Aiyaari”; Director: Neeraj Pandey; Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Sidharth Malhotra, Rakul Preet Singh, Pooja Chopra, Adil Hussain, Kumud Mishra, Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher.