'Aiyaary' Review: An intelligent espionage thriller vintage Neeraj Pandey

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Manoj Bajpayee and Sidharth Malhotra in Aiyaary

Writer-director Neeraj Pandey started a new trend with his debut film A Wednesday, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher. Prior to it, Bollywood thrillers mostly had a noirish quality but it all changed thanks to Pandey’s brand of thrillers that varied both in terms of style as well as content. While A Wednesday can be described as a political thriller, his second directorial venture Special 26 fell in the realm of what can be described as a heist thriller. Baby, the third film to be directed by him, was actually an espionage thriller. Although, in between, he did make the MSD biopic, it is making thrillers that seem to interest him the most. It is perhaps for this reason that he chose a film like Aiyaary as his fifth directorial venture. An espionage thriller set in Lutyens' Delhi, Aiyaary stars Manoj Bajpayee, Sidharth Malhotra, and Rakul Preet Singh in the pivotal roles. The film costars Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Kumud Mishra, Vikram Gokhale, Nivedita Bhattacharya, and Pooja Chopra in the supporting roles. 

The plot of Aiyaary is more complex than as any other Hindi film in the recent times. The film has a vast panoply of characters with subplots abound. The action shifts from Delhi to Cairo to Kashmir to London. We come across soldiers, honest as well as corrupt, double agents, arms dealers, hackers, terrorists, TRP mongering newspersons, opportunistic politicians, and whatnots. The film reminds us that there is an ongoing war at large between those committed to guard the national security and those who pose a threat to it. Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) heads a covert unit to fight terrorism wherein they identity, trace and eliminate the enemies on the lines of Mossad. The operation is secretly sanctioned by the Indian Army chief himself. When Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra), Singh’s favorite protégé, goes rogue, the army finds itself on the brink of a serious humiliation. Has Bakshi sold himself to the enemy? Or there is more to it than meets the eye? Disowned by the army, Singh must trace Bakshi before he leaks vital military information to the enemy. What ensues is an engaging battle of wits between the mentor and his estranged protégé, both masters of disguise, but it is not a one on one tussle, for there are several other stakeholders involved, each with a vested interest of his own. 

Rakul Preet Singh and Sidharth Malhotra in Aiyaary
Rakul Preet Singh and Sidharth Malhotra in Aiyaary
Aiyaary at first appears to be a complex meshwork with subplots and characters abound. But gradually the loose ends are neatly tied up. The film may not go too well with anti-war activists, for it makes a strong case for why the state needs to supports its military and counterintelligence. Yes, corruption is all pervasive but there are still enough honest men and women around who are willing to die for their country. The film possibly takes at dig at the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II regime by alluding to the Adarsh Housing Society scam. One is bound to get a bit suspicious whenever a film begins with long disclaimers trying to justify its intentions. But then it is becoming more like a norm these days as the filmmakers don’t want to draw ire from any person or community. 

Sidharth Malhotra and Manoj Bajpayee in Neeraj Pandey's Aiyaary
A Still from Neeraj Pandey's Aiyaary
Politics and ideologies aside, the film comes across as a well-made espionage thriller. Neeraj Pandey delivers a knockout punch. Finally, Bollywood can endeavor to have its very own ‘Mission: Impossible’ kind of a film franchise. Ever the chameleon, Manoj Bajpayee is brilliant to watch in Aiyaary. After Akshay Kumar, it is Bajpayee who seems to have emerged as a favorite as far as Neeraj Pamdey is concerned and the director-actor chemistry just seems to be getting better with each film. As for Sidharth Malhotra, he delivers one of his best performances in Aiyaary. Hopefully, it would help him gain greater credibility as an actor. Rakul Preet Singh looks stunning opposite Sidharth. Unfortunately, the film fails to explore the romance angle well but that is all but expected in such a film. Kumud Mishra, Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Vikram Gokhale, and Pooja Chopra are memorable in their short roles. Despite a few goof-ups, how Pandey handles complex subplots and a plethora of characters is commendable. Credit to him for choosing to make an intelligent film, despite being fully aware of the risks at the box-office! Here is an engaging espionage thriller that deserves to be watched. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

Aiyaary - Official Trailer (YouTube)

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  1. Thanks for a nice review of the film. I should definitely watch. Wednesday and Special 26 were great movies by the same director. Aiyari too would be nice.


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