‘Lahore Confidential’ review: no poem can salvage this amateurish outing

If director Kunal Kohli and writers Vibha Singh and Hussain Zaidi are to be believed, the world of espionage is all about calling dibs on choosing an agent to infiltrate the enemy camp and using skulduggery to initiate said unsuspecting agent into a tedious process of extracting information. 

Lahore Confidential is a startling 68-minute demonstration of how movies take their audience’s intelligence for granted. And for a movie that’s ostensibly about capturing the maneuvers of Indian intelligence, it displays none. So we see Ananya (Richa Chadha) bundled off to Pakistan—much to the chagrin of her mother—played by the superb Nikhat Khan—whose sole aim in life is to ensure her daughter gets married. “Isn’t there anybody nice in your office?” she queries. “They’re all nice,” ripostes the harried daughter. This inane conversation is preceded by an equally laughable scene between RD (Khalid Siddiqui) in RAW and his (supposedly) fiery agent in Pakistan, Yukti (Karishma Tanna) where they’re discussing the pros and cons of sending the unsuspecting Ananya to Lahore, Pakistan:

“She’s done a desk job in a media company all her life.”

“Exactly! None’ll suspect she’s our agent.”

“RD, She’s very emotional.”

At the end of this exchange, overlaying another scene featuring Ananya’s introduction, there’s no response from RD, who’s presumably scooted off to book the tickets.

Richa Chadha and Karishma Tanna: double trouble.

Anyhoos, the reason Ananya’s the chosen one is that she knows her poetry from Faiz, even if she’s fazed by the prospect of relocating from India. In a completely comic scene, she tells RD, “When I told you I wanted a foreign posting, I meant Dubai or Singapore!” All of the chuckle-inducement is unintentional of course. There’s more to come as Ananya’s sole job in Lahore is to attend poetry-filled parties hosted by Rauf Ahmed Kazmi (Arunoday Singh ranging from likable to abruptly losing interest) whose sole job is to organize them. And because all high-profile officials throng these soirees—we don’t meet a soul all through the movie who fits this bill, though—Ananya’s to distill information from her host while mouthing obfuscating dialogues that have no apparent projectile. I won’t give away anything when I say that in a mansion as big as the Queen’s, they choose to end up in a water-body that they barely (no pun intended) fit in.

Arunoday Singh, Richa Chadha: wait, is this movie for real?

There are other Delphic signals that are thrown at you as way of friendly warnings to salvage your evening OTT time. The editing by Nikhil Parihar is cut-throat, and not in an effective way. Abrupt scenes abut each other with the grace of a dirt-road that rumbles and tumbles its peripatetic users without warning. Plus, the supporting performances are reminiscent of local TV shows whose budgets call for the apprehension of studio trespassers to act as extras—note Yukti’s scenes with her team, as they fill in each other with dialogues that are rank amateurish. 

Karishma Tanna with her crack team.

And that’s how Lahore Confidential rolls. With mind-bogglingly bad characterizations—Karishma Tanna’s Yukti has only one way to squeeze information out: sex—the awkwardness spills into the usually terrific Richa Chadha’s act as well. Every scene she’s in looks like it’s culled from auditions for the movie. At one point, she goes stiff all over, delivering her dialogue with a stunned epiphany, almost as if horrified by the prospect of this movie being ever streamed. (Spoiler for her: too late.) Director Kohli ends up creating a product that can be described in one word whose acronymic usage was supposed to be its high point. Raw. 

Lahore Confidential (2021) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Lahore Confidential is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) violence and some water-soaking sensuousness.
Lahore Confidential
Director Kunal Kohli Time 1h 8minWriters Vibha Singh, Hussain ZaidiStars Richa Chadha, Arunoday Singh, Karishma TannaGenres Crime, Drama, Thriller