Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher
Director: Shivam Nair
Bollywood has been churning out a lot of women-centric films in the recent past. From dealing with issues like consent to mental health to even education of the girl child, filmmakers are now writing stories keeping the woman as the central character. So in this milieu, it is natural that we also have a spy thriller with a woman playing its lead.
Director Shivam Nair’s film Naam Shabana, on the onset, appears to be an engaging spy thriller with a women playing the central character but ultimately is a dull, slow affair which makes you restless.
A spin off of the hugely successful and thrilling Baby, Naam Shabana narrates the story Shabana, a young college girl in Mumbai. Shabana stays with her mother, and unlike other girls of her age, she is rather different. She is a Kudo champion, usually keeps to herself and has a dark past that keeps her glum mostly. She does have a friend called Jai who secretly loves her. During Jai’s birthday, Shabana opens up about her troubled past and professes her love for him. While on their way back home, a group of men tease Shabana and as Shabana takes them head on( She is martial arts champion remember), one of them accidentally kills Jai.
Shabana is picked up by the intelligence agency soon after. They had been watching her for sometime and post Jai’s death, they take her in, promise to find his killers so that she can take her revenge and in return she agrees to work for them. The agency eventually entrusts her to assassinate one of the most dreaded criminals in the world who has been on the run for years.
A good spy thriller ideally should have the audience on the edge of their seat. But Naam Shabana is unable to create such an impact. The background score is edgy, the camera work is swift yet the film ultimately gets marred due to its screenplay. Too much time is spent on establishing Shabana’s past and why she opted to become a spy. The first half is unnecessarily stretched and with literally no high points. The scenes that really engage you are the one’s which have Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher (reprising their characters from Baby) near the climax.
Taapsee Pannu, after delivering a powerful performance in Pink last year, gets to play a strong role once again in Naam Shabana. She has undergone massive physical training for the film and results show on screen. She p[erfroms her stunts well and looks her part. Shabana is a grim character who barely smiles, who has been wronged in the past and becomes a bit ruthless in the process. Tapsee gets the role well but an inadequate screenplay mars her to excel. She is good throughout but had the script been a bit more sharp, her performance could have been a notch higher. The film has Manoj Bajpayee playing the agency chief and Prithiviraj Sukumaran as the antagonist. Both credible actors who get restricted due to poor writing.
Naam Shabana, though, gives a solid message about self-defense. Shabana is a college girl, who knows how to protect herself and her man. Its also refreshing to see a woman in Hindi cinema being so self-reliant and taking on the bad guys on her own, without a man’s help. Perhaps more such characters are needed to inspire woman across the country.
Naam Shabana is well intended but is unable to take flight due to poor writing.