November 15, 2021 9:03:54 am
For years and years, we were starved of good spy thrillers on the big screen. If the West had the glamorous Bond and his gadgets and gritty Jason Bourne and his rather fantastic espionage dramas, what India had were cheap clones at best. What started as a trickle on the big screen in the last decade or so (here’s looking at Agent Vinod, Baby, Naam Shabana and more) turned into a deluge once streaming platforms came in.
Now, most of the spies that we see on OTT are less Bond-esque and more the brains behind the scene who are not afraid to get their hands dirty once in a while. To use the dialogue of Richard Burton’s agent Alec Leamas from the 1965 film The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, “What the hell do you think spies are? Model philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not. They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid b*stards like me, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten up their rotten little lives.”
As Kay Kay Menon’s Himmat Singh — cast in the same mould — takes over our screens again in Special Ops 1.5, here’s a ranking of all spy dramas, from worst to best, that we have seen on streaming platforms.
With Richa Chadha in the lead role, we had too many expectations from Lahore Confidential, which perhaps explained the disappointment that came later. The 68-minute espionage drama is about Ananya (Chadha), a poetry-loving Indian spy. The R&AW agent is on a secret mission to Pakistan, where she meets Rauf Khazmi (Arunoday Singh), and develops an instant connect. With poetry and literature strengthening their bond, the two fall in love, get intimate and betrayal follows. The film lacks the basic component of the genre — thrill. Directed by Kunal Kohli, Lahore Confidential premiered earlier this year on ZEE5. It also Khatron Ke Khiladi 10 winner Karishma Tanna in a pivotal part.
As the coronavirus created ripples across the world, ZEE5 announced London Confidential, a film that had the pandemic as its backdrop. Starring Mouni Roy, Purab Kohli and Kulraj Randhawa, the film showed R&AW agents in London, who are investigating China’s role in the pandemic. Things get intense as they find a mole in their midst. London Confidential cleared stayed away from China-bashing and did not focus so much on the losses caused by the virus. The predictable, loose script was all about finding the traitor among them. Shot in the UK during the first wave, the film premiered in September last year.
A police officer Samarth Kaushik (Amit Sial), along with his associate Mishra (Anuraag Arora), is out to nab the gangsters responsible for a hotelier’s kidnapping. In another part of the country, a CBI officer is investigating the murder of a colleague, while a primetime news anchor is being stalked. Kathmandu Connection blends all three events with a common connection with a casino in Kathmandu. While the performances may keep you hooked, the SonyLIV series changes genre mid-way — from a spy thriller, it turns into a revenge thriller, leaving one a tad disappointed.
Bard of Blood
Adapted from Bilal Siddiqi’s novel by the same name, Bard of Blood stars Emraan Hashmi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Shobhita Dhulipala in lead roles. Following the typical espionage template, the Ribhu Dasgupta directorial follows the adventure of a former agent Kabir Anand (Hashmi), who goes on a secret mission across the border to rescue four Indian operatives captured by the Taliban. Despite an interesting plot at hand and some amazing actors, the Netflix series failed to translate the magic on screen, leaving us with a drag of a show.
Apoorva Lakhia directed Crackdown starred Saqib Saleem, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Rajesh Tailang, Iqbal Khan and Waluscha De Sousa. It gets into the terrorism thriller template where an anti-terrorist squad is deployed to track a dangerous nexus of terrorists. The writers kept us engaged with constant plot twists but despite a brisk narrative, they failed to create a connect with the characters. Even after the show, you never get to know the motivation behind their actions. The show is streaming on Voot Select.
Special Ops 1.5
The first season, launched last year, followed Himmat Singh’s (Kay Kay Menon) 19-year chase to nab a terrorist, who was the mastermind behind the 2001 Parliament Attack. Fighting the tough battle on the field for him were his five secret agents, who obediently follow his commands over the phone. After a blockbuster show, Neeraj Pandey announced a spin-off on Himmat’s character, calling it a prequel to the drama. Special Ops 1.5: The Himmat Story tells the origin tale of the R&AW officer and how he became the man he is today. The mini-series, though packed with dramatic sequences, is unable to recreate the magic of the original iteration. The Disney+ Hotstar series also stars Aadil Khan and Aftab Shivdasani in pivotal roles.
The Family Man
Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee) is a middle-class man with all the woes that come with it and a super slick spy, all rolled in one. Working secretly, without even an official thank you, the agent along with his trusted few are on national duty. While the first season saw Tiwari and gang saving the city from a deadly gas attack at the last second, the second season had him fight terrorists down south. The new chapter also gives us the highlight of the show — Samantha Akkineni, who played a highly trained, skilled terror operative Raji. The Raj and DK-created Amazon Prime Video series also tries to delve into the humane side of youngsters, who are lured into the tentacles of extremism.
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