A level-headed top cop Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar), off-duty on a lazy south Delhi afternoon, sees a wanted terrorist and starts chasing him. He’s chasing him through the wide, cobbled streets of Connaught Place when a twist of fate finds his daughter sitting behind in the car dead from the spray of bullets from the terrorist, whose gang has by now managed to ambush his captor. Thus begins the story of Wazir, a crime drama of the kind that we usually haven’t seen in Bollywood with heavyweights like Amitabh Bachhan, Farhan Akhtar and John Abraham lending their names to. I would, in fact, rate Wazir as being at par with Airlift, despite not having got much attention and acclaim, and would recommend anyone who appreciates good cinema to watch Wazir.
Though not for the first time, the film deals with a clash between Muslims subscribing to modern constitutional values and Muslims resorting to terrorism, and there are indeed many true-life Muslims like the character Danish Ali in security forces across the globe, many of whom have died fighting terrorists like Ahmad during the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the version of Islam that most Muslims subscribe to has no room for terrorism, even if it may have room for other regressive tendencies and a strong community consciousness, varying from person to person, as is the case even with other religious groupings, and terrorism or even religion-based terrorism in India or globally is certainly no Muslim monopoly either. However, one may say, only in the realm of sociopolitical worldviews and not having any bearing on personal nature as such, without any generalisations or any desire to offend, that theocratic legal frameworks biased against women, homosexuals and non-Muslims in many Muslim-majority countries (to varying degrees) and loud demands for them at least in some domains by seemingly sizable numbers of Muslims in other countries suggest that Muslims may be in need of more introspection and reform that other religious groupings have undergone in greater measure in the past, as the likes of Fareed Zakaria have candidly expressed.
But then, I digress. The movie tells the story of two otherwise very different men, Daanish Ali and Omkarnath Dhar (Amitabh Bachhan), the latter a Kashmiri Pandit who was displaced from the valley and later, also lost his daughter (his daughter’s loss having no connection with the exodus from the valley). Dhar befriends and empathises with Danish Ali, for both have undergone the pain of losing their daughter. An Indian Muslim policeman fighting terrorists who are acting in the name of his faith befriending a man from a community also affected by Muslim radicalism makes an interesting combination. The two protagonists find themselves jousting with time and reality in a bid to uncover the truth of some terrorists. And the truth here is something that is of mutual interest to both of them. The scenes where Ali and Dhar encounter each other in the first few minutes of the film are indeed captivating.
The movie marks yet another successful directorial venture of Nambiar after Shaitan and David. The sequences as they come and go, are very gripping and thriller-like and director Bejoy Nambiar does a good job in winding up the story in a neat one-and-a-half hours. The music at times is haunting and mostly endearing and the song Atrangi still rings a tune in my ears today.
Farhan’s character, Danish Ali is a stoic, shattered man, grieving from his daughter’s untimely death, who is out to seek vengeance on those who brought this misfortune on him. Meanwhile, on the side, his wife is also reeling from the pain and loss in her own way. On the other hand, Bachhnan’s character is a polar opposite, a man who keeps himself busy in an air of activity and playfulness despite his tremendous personal loss in the past. Nambiar does a good job in putting into perspective the sharp contrast in the character of the two protagonists, and beautifully crafts their stories together to show to the audience that their ends are similar. This, Nambiar does with his customary flair of finesse in directorial execution.
The film has the game of chess as a recurring theme and there are constant references to the game and the audience is led to understand that Amitabh’s character is the weak but devious pawn seeking to piggyback on the brawny and dutiful knight which is Farhan’s character to outwit some scheming grand wazir.
To top and tail the references, there are many instances where the two protagonists are seen and heard making witty allusions to the game of chess to explain things in real life. Although a dosage of such witty allusions might get a bit too heavy at times, Bachhan with his simple flourish and Nambiar with his tight script manage to keep the plot going. If the first half is compact and taut, the second half is different in nature and interesting in its own way, though I would most humbly say that I could predict the culmination of the film, which did make the film less fun for me as compared to those who could/did not do so.
Also, as the script unfolds in the second half, we are told of militants shooting down an entire village in Kashmir. This, according to me, is a serious error, for while gun-toting Kashmiri militants did shoot down Kashmiri Muslim non-combatants, that pertained to targeting individuals for not sharing their ideological worldview (like being pro-India, defying militants’ moral policing diktats etc.) or for extortions or forcibly marrying a girl or exacting personal revenge or on suspicion of being agents of the state, as also militants supporting Kashmir joining Pakistan killing militants seeking an independent Kashmir and so on, but there have been no such massacres by Kashmiri Muslim militants of Kashmiri Muslims in general, whose ‘freedom’ the militants claim to be fighting for, and though one of the militants in this case claims to have been a victim and successfully obtains the sympathy of the security forces, in a realistic situation of such a thing happening (which should hopefully never take place), such an unprecedented attack would indeed make even our security personnel very suspicious. Often, we get carried away by our own notions of what terrorism amounts to, ignoring the dynamics of a conflict zone, which does indeed reflect in the screenplay of this film too.
But the weak points notwithstanding, the film is thrilling, and makes you relate to various characters intellectually and emotionally. The music is gripping and the character development is hard-hitting. Moreover, it is a fair departure in some respects from Bollywood run-of-the-mill vengeance storylines, in that the characters do not delve into the sadistic pleasure of avenging a wrong, but coldly and with surgical precision, implement their plans to take down their target. Therefore, Wazir stays true to its purpose as an edgy thriller, anchored by Akhtar and Bachhan’s compelling compatibility.
(Image Courtesy: Flickr)
A must-watch for all those appreciating intelligent (even if not indie) cinema. Would hive it 7.5/10.