In a slight departure from his usual populist patriotic movies, filmmaker Neeraj Pandey takes on corruption and the issues within the Indian military in his latest film, Aiyaary. Here, it isn’t Pakistan or foreign militants who are really putting the country in danger, but corrupt politicians and army officers who are hand in glove with the arms mafia, which is incidentally led by a former Indian army officer. This is a film similar to Pandey’s famous A Wednesday! in which a citizen, frustrated with bad governance, takes law into his hands. The difference is that here, it is a bright young army man who decides to fight against the systemic rot.
When Major Jai Bakshi (Siddharth Malhotra), a member of a covert espionage team Design and System Diagnostics, vanishes one day with vital confidential information, his boss, Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpai), swings into action. Everyone knows Jai as a righteous man who once took two bullets to save Singh’s life while they were on duty in Kashmir. While Singh, an exceptionally skilled spy who trained with Mossad and CIA, can’t fathom what prompted Jai to go rogue, he does everything to stop him from sharing the secret data with the media or anyone else. Jai and his girlfriend, a sharp software security specialist named Sonia (Rakul Preet Singh), move to London, and Singh follows.
Aiyaary‘s laudable intention to pay attention to the rot within the system gets watered down by poor filmmaking. The film proceeds at a breakneck pace. The narration is non-linear, with flashbacks within flashbacks, but it is no brilliant brain teaser. Aiyaary is like a faulty jigsaw puzzle that you can’t ever put together neatly, no matter how hard you try. The writing isn’t great; there are loose ends everywhere, and the characters are poorly fleshed out, further worsened by Siddharth Malhotra whose deadpan expressions are unintentionally funny in some places. Aiyaary, unlike Pandey’s previous ventures, ends up as an ambitious, but terribly incoherent film that evokes more confusion than thrill. The film has no technical finesse, either. Cinematography by Sudhir Palsane, Pandey’s regular collaborator, is surprisingly mediocre here, and background music is bland and loud.
There is an instance when Sonia, who had been kept in the dark about Jai’s real identity as a spy, finds it out when she comes across his military identity card casually left on the table at the restaurant where they are on a date. Is it not bizarre that a military officer on special duty would handle an identity card so carelessly in a public place? But that just seems natural in Aiyaary, which is a string of incoherent ideas and characters put together on Bollywood’s opulent canvas. In the scene where Abhay is introduced, he asks his subordinate to hand him some bullets to shoot down a target whom they managed to zero in on with a lot of difficulty, and he’s given a packet of goli, medicinal tablets, because why not!
The ploys used by the film to validate claims of Abhay’s mighty intellect end up as a damp squib. The men’s strategical moves are presented dramatically, with a lot of hype and added swag, but they always end poorly. There is a terrible lack of punch even in the most pivotal scenes.
What forms the core premise of the film is a high-profile housing scam similar to Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Scam, in which newly built apartments meant for widows and dependents of slain soldiers and retired army men are grabbed by politicians and senior officers. The film meanders a bit before it reaches here, and Naseeruddin Shah, in a terrific cameo, ensures that this part turns out to be the saving grace of the film. Shah is funny and earnest in his role as a security guard, and he makes most of the patchily written part.
Manoj Bajpai is the clown as well as the hero of Aiyaary, and he does it in style, successfully distracting the audience’s attention from Malhotra’s one-note acting. But there is only so much even an actor of his calibre can do in a movie that can barely make sense of itself. This is a film that aims big, but achieves little, for it takes a convoluted route to narrate the story.
The Aiyaary review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.