Whenever we talk about Hindi espionage movies, one of the first few films that comes to my mind is Neeraj Pandey's "Baby". So when it was announced that Neeraj Pandey is planning a spin off prequel titled "Naam Shabana", I was pretty excited. The trailer further heightened the expectations as it showed Prithvi as the antagonist & Akki in a cameo, not to forget about Taapsee who kicked some serious ass. So it now remains to be seen whether it was able to live upto expectations & deliver what it promised???
For those who have seen "Baby", it's unlikely that you would have forgotten special agent Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu) who rocked the screen in a brief role. In "Naam Shabana", it shows as to how she was recruited into the intelligence agency. Shabana was a martial arts student who had a dark past due to which she used to confide only in her mother. When her friend, Jay (Taher Shabbir) expresses his love for her; things started to brighten up in her life until Jay meets with his death in an eve-teasing incident. At this juncture, she gets an offer from the agency that they would help her avenge Jay's death if she agrees to join them. Shabana accepts their offer but was she really upto the challenge???
Shivam Nair has called the shots & since I havent seen any of his previous movies, I dont have any reference as to how good he is as a story teller. However, since it is Neeraj Pandey's production I had huge expectations especially since he was handling the script & screenplay. Without mincing words, I would have to admit that it was nowhere in the league of "A Wednesday", "Special 26" or "Baby". The film invests an enormous amount of time on the backstory which was far from engaging & if one expects that things will get better when the mission starts, then they are grossly mistaken. The plot is wafer thin & apart from a couple of sequences, it lacks logic and finesse with the hasty predictable climax being the prime example for it.
One of the highlights of the movie are the action sequences which were choreographed by noted French stuntman Cyril Raffaeli. Even Sudheer Palsane deserves praise for the long shot visuals while the music was pretty mediocre. Taapsee has performed admirably as the protagonist in the action sequences though in the other segments, she comes across as rather bland. Even though Prithvi is the villain, it was more like a cameo & he gets wasted in a role which lacked substance. Akshay rocks in his brief role (included keeping the box office in mind) while Manoj Bajpayee is barely allowed to do anything significant apart from talk on the phone & keep looking on the screen.
Verdict: Since female centric action movies are quite rare in our country, it is unique in that sense. But however on saying that, more often than not Akshay's character seemed to take centre stage as the protector, rather the backup that he is projected to be. It should be able to collect a reasonable initial but once that is over, it will struggle to remain relevant. In short, keep yourself occupied watching the finals between Federer-Nadal at the Miami Masters & Sindhu-Marin at the India Open, rather than investing time for this!!!