Wazir: When It Dawns a Pawn on You


Wazir_Poster

Statistically, this could have gone either way. First, he made the eclectically gripping “Shaitan”. Next, he delivered the DOA “David”. Which is why, “Wazir” is a toss-up wins –or- fails flip of the directorial coin for Bejoy Nambiar. In his latest effort, he’s aided by a story by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who’s also written the screenplay with the very talented Abhijat Joshi.

“Wazir”, as it turns out, lands neatly on its wins side, and goes along at a clipping pace that holds you with its decisive moves and jumps.  The movie opens with a quick collage of meet, marry, and family expansion program between Daanish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) and Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari). In under ten minutes, you learn that Daanish is an officer of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Ruhana is a dancer, and with their daughter, they are the enviable picture of a happy family. Having established this, Nambiar kicks off drama in high gear, as tragedy strikes the Facebook portrait and Daanish-Ruhana break and splinter within and away from each other.  Behind this tragedy is a wanted terrorist who’s arrived in Delhi to meet someone very important.  This results in Nambiar rolling out a superbly lit and choreographed shoot-out scene, kicked off by a groggy, sleeping-pill affected Daanish, out to avenge the tragedy.  The camera angles are tight – they move around the characters and the buildings, running above them, swooping in to join the sound of gun fire, and then throwing you with some breathless footwork – the sound design by Renganaath Ravee and cinematography by Sanu Varghese is absolutely a winner, hurtling you right amidst the action.

Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar - the grandmaster and the chessmaster
Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar: the grandmaster and the chessmaster

Next, the broken and suspended Daanish meets a wheel-chair confined Pandit Omkarnath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan), who’s nursing a crippling tragedy of his own.  As the movie progresses, their friendship grows, and Panditji begins to teach Daanish the game of chess, even as he attempts to bridge the fractured relationship between Daanish and Ruhana. Amidst all the moves and countermoves that Daanish learns, you and he also come to know of Panditji’s daughter’s death, and how he is trying to build a case against a Kashmiri politician, Ayzaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Slowly and inescapably, Daanish begins to get inextricably drawn into Panditji’s mission and moves along a parallel, vigilante-like investigation with the help of his ATS friend, Sartaj (Anjum Sharma).  This part of “Wazir” is absolutely tops, ricocheting between some gripping sequences of conflict, half-terror half-suspense, and completely riveting moments.

Post-interval, it could go either way for you. If you spent your first-half wondering about all the possibilities, and you realize where Nambiar is going with this, you might want to chuck your pop-corn tub and walk out in a huff. Or, you could keep the epiphany away (or not), and still feel the Damocles’ sword of terror hang just a few inches away from the characters. If you do that, you’ll doff your hat to director Bejoy Nambiar when he traverses the spitfire arc of freezing horror in a trip-wire sequence that had some of the audience gasp out loud.  Thus will “Wazir” continue to work its cinematic grip on you, until it reaches its end that could move you (and I don’t mean out of the cinema hall) or make you groan in another epiphanic despair. For the record, it did the former to me, and Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan got a lump in my throat, despite the rather contrived connivance that got us there.

Farhan Akhtar - bursting with kinetic energy
Farhan Akhtar: bursting with kinetic energy

Which brings us to the cast. Farhan Akhtar delivers a tightly wound up act, superbly displaying his inner struggles, pain, and anger, the last of which he transforms into a kinetic energy that’s effectively efficient. There’s a scene right in the beginning when Farhan’s character is in his car, pursuing the wanted terrorist in Delhi: the camera’s on him as he turns the vehicle around a curve, and his is an expression of concentration and tension, even as he tries to look nonchalant, knowing his daughter is sitting behind. That’s some super stuff. And then, look at him in the scene where Amitabh tells him of how he knew Daanish’s daughter. Farhan’s composure begins to shatter and he turns away to hide the pain as much as to run away from the pain, and that is tops.  Aditi Rao Hydari’s is a fulsomely winning performance, her eyes traversing from ephemeral radiance and joy to torpid pain that suck you into her world of helpless anger and angst. It’s also a pleasure to watch Neil Nitin Mukesh make his appearance in a creepy and terrifying scene that sets the tone for the post-interval tensile stress.

Manav Kaul - ruthless, ice-cold performance
Manav Kaul: ruthless, ice-cold performance

The show stealer award is shared by two gentlemen – one, Manav Kaul, who, as the evil minister, shocks you and reels you into his world of sinister secrets and dark maneuvers. Every scene he’s in, his eyes ruthlessly ice- cold, send a shiver down your spine. The scene where he sits in front of his daughter and rolls his sleeves up, will have you cringing with fear. Truly, an intimidating act.

Amitabh Bachchan - craftily, superbly good
Amitabh Bachchan: craftily, superbly good

The other of course, is Amitabh Bachchan. Indisputably superb, Amitabh is the grandmaster here, his performance a fine-tuned game that combines craftiness, humor, and heart-tugging expressions that only he can deliver. Watch him at his self-deprecating best when Farhan lands up at his home in the middle of the night for a game of chess and you laugh out. Watch him as he reminisces his happy family days or when he speaks to Farhan and Aditi to patch their broken bonds back, and you are emotionally hypnotized, having no control whatsoever of your own.

“Wazir” has a bagful of composers to score a bagful of songs, and most of them are pretty good. But the winner is Shantanu Moitra’s lovely “Tere bin”, sung with a measure of romantic equanimity by Shreya Ghoshal and Sonu Nigam. This song glides in and opens the movie that quickly spans the love story between Daanish and Ruhana. Moitra employs some beautifully simple but melodic notes, a humming bee like flute, and clean tablas to deliver a song that will remain with you for some time to come.  How you wish there’s more of such songs in the new year.  Rohit Kulkarni’s background score adds to the drama and suspense, thankfully without upping the decibels.  And I rather enjoyed the horrifying homage to Rahul Dev Burman’s burgeoningly popular “Lakdi ki kaathi” – a song that amazingly binds generations together.

“Wazir”, then, is a movie that works on its premise for the most part, faltering only when it leans on contrived story props. And during the course of the 104 minutes thriller, even if it dawns a pawn you what the plot is about, despair not – it’s not stale, mate.

Watch the trailer of Wazir here:

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