Khufiya review: It is sensually intimate spy thriller but is too afraid to give into its unabashed and maddening potential!

Sakshi Sharma
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Khufiya review

Khufiya review

Khufiya review: Vishal Bhardwaj's Khufiya is riddled with secrets both personal and professional. At the same time, it's dull as well as engaging and leaves you at odds! 

Khufiya review: Khufiya, an Urdu word means hidden/secret whereas gaze talks about how we look at things aka a perspective. Vishal Bhardwaj's film is a play on both of these as we witness well-kept hidden secrets spill out in this espionage spy thriller and all that matters is the way we look at things. 

Krishna Mehra urf KM (Tabu), an officer with the Research and Analysis Wing is essentially a shadow in her work life as well as in her personal. She harbors a secret not just from the world but from her family and herself too. In contrast to her is Ravi Mohan's (Ali Fazal) family, her colleague, and the mole in the agency. He is a patriot in his own sense while his wife Charu (Wamiqa) is a filmy wife who dances to the tunes of old-school Hindi film songs and smokes weed until her domestic bliss of a life is turned upside down. And of course the twist in the tale, Mohan's mother (Navnindra Behl) is devoted to a godman and her own vested interests.

Based on the spy novel by Amar Bhushan "Escape to Nowhere" which is also based on true events as Mr. Bhushan is a retired Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Khufiya tries to paint the real picture of the lives of professional spies. In quite an intriguing manner and built with a thundering background score, all the surveillance sequences in the film bring excitement to the otherwise isolating mundane job of looking at someone else's life unfold and waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

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The film's tone is set from the start where the focus on a woman's mole on the jugular notch leads to quite literally a mole in the agency. You get that this isn't just any other cat-and-mouse spy thriller but one that is going to be deeply intimate, personal, and sensual. It is quite clear that Bhardwaj with his co-writer Rohan Narula wants to conceal as much as he wants to give away as they employ an interesting trick of allegory. Where the camera's gaze invades the privacy and not just a nation's but even personal secrets are shared. 

In the middle of global politics among India, America, and Bangladesh covert operations are being held across which intertwine with the complicated personal lives of these agents. But this unfortunately isn't followed through thoroughly as a thread that binds the entire plot together; neither is it well-balanced! Hence the film feels like a half-baked product. Tabu, with her stone-cold performance that gives nothing away, adds so much nuance to the character which otherwise could have seemed bland in spite of the intrigue. Following in her suit are Ali Fazal, Wamiqa, Navnindra, and Azmeri Haque Badhon, who add intense depth to their characters with their performances.

Khufiya is laced with Vishal Bhardwaj's essence with music, metaphors, Shakespeare, and his voice where he adds layers within layers wanting to give his midas touch to an espionage spy thriller that is not just loud but real. This is a film only he could have thought of with his lens of looking at women and men navigating in a world full of conspiracies and hypocrisies. The journey of a housewife going from chirpy and dancing freely to being bleak and ending up screaming in silence, converting an alienated secretive role written for a man so superfluously and making that appropriate for a woman, or the aching journey of a man and his complexes. But the effort is a bit lost which makes you wonder if the long format that a series provides is a better option for exploring these themes to their potential.

I genuinely wanted to love this film that's filled with poetry, nuance, and a new gaze but there was something that was pulling me away. A rushed and cliche climax in a well-intentioned story muddled with the director's personal and political voice draws me in enough to be intrigued with the film but falls short of blowing my mind. In short, Khufiya is free yet bound which makes it a watchable experience though not entirely a memorable one! 

Khufiya is currently streaming on Netflix

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