CAST: Tabu, Ali Fazal, Wamiqa Gabbi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Atul Kulkarni, Azmeri Haque Badhon, Navnindra Behl
DIRECTOR: Vishal Bhardawaj
Highly skilled R&AW agent, Krishna Mehra, also known as KM (played by Tabu), uncovers a mole within the Indian intelligence agency. This agent is betraying their country by selling sensitive information to the nation’s enemies, and it becomes imperative to capture them at any cost. Vishal Bhardwaj’s espionage thriller, ‘Khufiya,’ draws inspiration from former intelligence officer Amar Bhushan’s novel, ‘Escape To Nowhere.’ This marks a departure into uncharted territory for Bhardwaj, taking on a subject matter he may not have explored previously.
Despite the exceptional acting talent led by the unparalleled Tabu and Bhardwaj’s evident skill in crafting an atmospheric setting with unexpected moments of humor, ‘Khufiya’ falls short, being more dull than dazzling. The interplay of characters living double or even triple lives across borders offers a unique perspective, particularly with the portrayal of a Bangladeshi operative (played by Azmeri Haque Badhon), reminiscent of a seductive Mata Hari figure, and her intricate involvement in KM’s professional and personal life.
The dynamic between KM’s ex-husband (Atul Kulkarni) and their teenage son is well-crafted. However, the relationships between other mother-and-son pairs, such as chief suspect Ravi Mohan (Ali Fazal) and his resilient elderly mother (Navnindra Behl), or Mohan’s wife Charu (Wamiqa Gabbi) and their young son, aim to inject emotional depth into ‘Khufiya,’ emphasizing that even those forced to exist in the shadows have a softer, vulnerable side. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Fazal and Gabbi doesn’t quite click, and this pivotal aspect of the movie misses the mark.
The segments depicting Mohan and his family in their snowy South Dakota hideout, enduring the long, suspenseful wait that is part of a spy’s life, occasionally mix the peril of discovery and certain death with moments of tense laughter or tenderness. For instance, a dinner scene featuring rogan josh and a table full of people casting suspicious glances at each other, or a sequence filled with palpable chemistry between KM and her passionate operative, provide some upliftment. However, these moments are insufficient to maintain consistent engagement throughout the film.
This is another movie that could have afforded brilliant American actors but makes do with creating caricature characters out of them. The American operative in India, can barely act and we didn’t know that a psychologist in the CIA can control the outcome of defecting double agents.
Whenever Tabu is absent from the screen, her absence is acutely felt; more of her and Badhon’s characters would have been appreciated. The film also needed more of the seasoned Bhardwaj’s touch to truly captivate the audience.